Two sushi operators have been bit with record penalties of $891,000 for underpaying workers and providing false records.
The Federal Court imposed the eye-watering penalties against the operators of three Hero Sushi takeaway outlets.
In his judgment Justice Geoffrey Flick said, “This is a case about greed and the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
Sushi operators penalised
Deuk Hee “William” Lee and Hokun “Robert” Hwang operate Hero Sushi outlets in Newcastle and Canberra.
The Court penalised each $85,000, and their three companies $225,000 respectively.
In addition, the Court also penalised three payroll officers from Hero Sushi head office a total of $121,000 for their role in the underpayments.
Workers paid flat rates
The Court found the company paid 94 workers across the three Hero Sushi outlets flat rates as low as $12 an hour.
Fair Work says the young workers come from overseas, including Korean and Japanese nationals on international student and working holiday visas.
The operators underpaid:
- minimum hourly rates,
- casual loadings,
- penalty rates,
- clothing allowances
- and annual leave entitlements.
In addition, the company underpaid superannuation breached pay slip laws.
The underpayments totalled $700,832.
The company has back-paid some workers, however, others have left the country and cannot be located.
Additionally, Lee and Hwang gave Fair Work Inspectors hundreds of pages of false records on 11 separate occasions.
The documents showed inaccurate hours of work and pay rates.
Furthermore, the Court found each of the individuals aided and abetted or knew about the company’s breaches of workplace laws.
Case about greed and exploitation
Justice Flick said the case is “about greed and the exploitation of the vulnerable.
“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.”
Furthermore, Justice Flick said “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.”
Warning for all employers
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au says the penalties are a warning to employers.
“If you deliberately underpay workers, and then try and cover it up, you’ll end up in court and going bankrupt,” he said.
“I welcome the substantial penalties, and I congratulate the regulator for doing its job and enforcing workplace laws.”
Note: The Hero Sushi outlets named in these proceedings are located at:
- Shop 1030, Westfield Shopping Centre, Cnr Park Avenue and Northcott Drive, Kotara NSW;
- Shop CL10, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City ACT;
- and Shop K016 Australia Fair, 42 Marine Parade, Southport Queensland.
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