Sushi shop fined after paying workers $12 an hour
A GOLD Coast sushi shop has been fined $150,000 for underpaying 21 workers by almost $200,000 and providing false documents to the Fair Work Ombudsman in a case of "greed" and "exploitation of the vulnerable".
Hero Sushi based in Australia Fair in Southport is one of three outlets nationwide which was found to be paying workers as little as $12 an hour - well below the minimum wage.
Hero Sushi stores in Newcastle and Canberra were penalised $225,000 each.
In addition, company directors and owners Deuk Hee "William" Lee and Hokun "Robert" Hwang have each been penalised $85,000, and payroll officers employed at Hero Sushi head office, Chang Seok "Tommy" Lee, Ji Won "Brian" Cho and Jung Sun "Jimmy" Kim, have been penalised $75,000, $16,000 and $30,000, respectively.
The Federal Court found that a total of 94 workers across the three stores were paid as low as $12 an hour between April 2015 and July 2016 - totally to more than $700,000 in underpayments.
A majority of the workers were young overseas workers from countries such as Korea and Japan and were students or on working holiday visas.
The operators also provided Fair Work Inspectors with hundreds of pages of false records across 11 separate occasions, showing inaccurate hours of work and pay rates.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said: "The penalties imposed against Hero Sushi are the largest ever achieved as a result of a Fair Work Ombudsman litigation and demonstrate that employers who deliberately exploit vulnerable workers will face serious consequences.
"Employers need to be aware that penalties for serious falsification of records have been increased since the conduct occurred in this case and any employer engaging in this sort of conduct today can face even higher penalties and sanctions in Court."
All employees have been back paid.
"This is a case about greed and the exploitation of the vulnerable," Justice Geoffrey Flick said in his judgment.
"Those in a position to ruthlessly take advantage of others pursued their goal of seeking to achieve greater profits at the expense of employees. In doing so, a great number of false documents were deliberately and repeatedly created with a view to concealing the fraud being perpetrated. Lies were told to cover up the wrongdoing. It was only when the "game was up" that those responsible admitted their misdeeds."
Judge Flick said that "the quantum of the penalties to be imposed has to be such that they are not seen as simply the "cost of doing business" in the fast food industry."
In addition to the penalties, Justice Flick also ordered the companies to display workplace notices detailing employee rights and entitlements and to commission an external audit of its compliance with workplace laws within 28 days and report the results to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Originally published as Sushi shop fined after paying workers $12 an hour