MELBOURNE , June 10 (UPI) -- An Australian pizzeria operator has been fined $335,000 after a government investigation revealed he had been paying teenage workers in pizza and soda over the course of four years.
Franchise owner Ruby Chand runs two La Porchetta restaurants in Melbourne that employed more than 100 young workers and allegedly underpaid them more than $250,000.
During a legal proceeding in Federal Circuit Court, Judge John O'Sullivan heard that Chan routinely paid cooks and waiters less than minimum wage and justified that practice by offering them pizza and soda at half price or free. According to the Herald Sun, one worker was stiffed $25,000.
"It was not disputed that it was a practice for employees ... to get 'free' or 'half-priced' food and pizza and soft drinks and that the respondents now understand that this cannot 'offset' legal obligations to employees," O'Sullivan said.
"Such a practice belongs in the dark ages," he added
Chand was found guilty of violating employment laws and the fines were imposed.
"We value the staff who work for our franchisees. We wish the staff of Berwick and Pakenham well and we are sorry if they had a negative experience working for these restaurants," La Porchetta CEO Sara Pantaleo said in a statement.