Indian-Australian restaurant owner to face criminal charges under wage theft laws

Wage Inspectorate Victoria has filed 94 criminal charges in the Magistrates Court of Victoria against a Macedon restaurant and its officer

The charges against Victorian restaurant The Macedon Lounge operated by Rehmat & Mehar Pty Ltd and its officer are laid under the Victorian Wage Theft Act 2020, and the first in any Australian jurisdiction.

It is alleged that, between July and November 2021, Rehmat & Mehar Pty Ltd and its officer breached wage theft laws by dishonestly withholding over $7,000 in employee entitlements, including wages, penalty rates and superannuation, in relation to four young former staff members.

As per the ASIC documents, Gaurav Setia is the only officer mentioned for Rehmat & Mehar Pty Ltd.

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Rehmat & Mehar Pty Ltd and its ‘officer’ Gaurav Setia each will face 47 charges in the first criminal wage theft case.

The Macedon Lounge; Image Source: Facebook page The Macedon Lounge
The Macedon Lounge; Image Source: Facebook page The Macedon Lounge

These charges are initiated by Wage Inspectorate Victoria which is an independent statutory body established to investigate and prosecute wage theft offences and to promote and enforce Victorian laws covering long service leave, child employment and contractors in transport and forestry.

The prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool and decisions to take legal action are made in line with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

The offence of dishonestly withholding employee entitlements under the Wage Theft Act 2020 is punishable by a fine of over $1 million (6000 penalty units) for companies and up to 10 years in jail for individuals.

The matter has been listed for mention in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on 21 February 2023.

Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, Robert Hortle said, “Victorians can be confident the Wage Inspectorate is doggedly investigating wage theft reports and intends to bring further appropriate matters before the court.”

“The Wage Inspectorate has been investigating complaints, interviewing witnesses and exercising our coercive powers. We take each report seriously and will prosecute where appropriate, as per our Compliance and Enforcement Policy,”

explained Commissioner Hortle.
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The Macedon Lounge; Image Source: Facebook page The Macedon Lounge
The Macedon Lounge; Image Source: Facebook page The Macedon Lounge

Victoria’s wage theft laws are the only stand-alone, criminal wage theft laws in Australia.

On 1 July 2021, it became a crime for an employer in Victoria to dishonestly underpay employees or withhold their entitlements.

These crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in jail for an individual or a fine of over $1.1 million for companies.

Wage theft offences involve deliberate and dishonest conduct. Honest mistakes made by employers who exercise due diligence in paying wages and entitlements are not considered wage theft.

The Wage Inspectorate has instigated 10 prosecutions since 1 July 2021, including matters against NAB, CommSec and BankWest.