The operator of a chain of sushi outlets has copped a huge $124,416 penalty for deliberately underpaying migrant workers in Canberra.
The Federal Circuit Court penalised Rebecca Yi Jeong Shin, who owns and operates ‘Sushi Bay Belconnen’ $20,736, and her company Sushi Bay ACT Pty Ltd a further $103,680.
Ms Shin admitted to ripping off 22 workers a total of $18,671 between November 2015 and March 2016.
The employees were underpaid amounts ranging from $103 to $1,992, which have now been repaid in full.
Most of the workers were Korean nationals on working holiday and student visas.
Operator had previously been warned about underpayments
Ms Shin had previously been warned by the Fair Work Ombudsman about the importance of paying her employees their proper wages and entitlements, after complaints about underpayments.
In May 2015, she was formally cautioned that enforcement action could be taken against her for any future contraventions of workplace laws.
Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors discovered that she had continued to steal from her workers when they audited more than 40 sushi outlets across Canberra, South-East Queensland, the Hunter, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour and North Coast regions in NSW.
Inspectors found that workers at Sushi Bay Belconnen did not receive their legal minimum weekday rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.
Leave entitlements were also underpaid and further breaches relating to making part-time agreements and record-keeping were discovered.
What the court said
Judge Brana Obradovic found that the wage theft involved deliberate conduct that included the underpayment of “basic and fundamental entitlement[s]”.
“The Court finds that the contravening conduct was deliberate in light of [Ms Shin’s] admitted knowledge, prior audits, history of employee complaints and the education provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman,” Judge Obradovic said.
Judge Obradovic ordered Sushi Bay ACT Pty Ltd to commission an external audit of its compliance and rectify any underpayments found.
Repeat offenders deserve jail time
Industrial relations advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au said repeat offenders like Ms Shin deserved jail time.
“This is yet another case that proves that current penalties for wage theft are not deterrent enough for greedy bosses like Ms Shin,” he said.
“Wage theft should be made a criminal offence – just like all other forms of theft – and low life employers like Ms Shin should be behind bars with a criminal conviction.
“Until the federal government gets serious and introduces criminal penalties for wage theft, we will continue to see workers ripped off by their bosses.”
If you have not received your proper wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our specialist team at WAGETHEFT.net.au on
1300 1 THEFT (1300 184 338)
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