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Sushi operator fined $108,000 for underpayment

news
August 26 2019

By Nicholas Hartman

An operator of two sushi outlets in Queensland has been fined by the Fair Work Ombudsman after they were found to be “recklessly” underpaying staff and not complying with record-keeping and pay slip breaches.

The FWO ordered the operator of the two outlets to pay a fine of $108,000, with three directors of the company paying a combined penalty of around $17,700.

An investigation by the FWO found that the company had failed to keep proper time and wage records, and outright failed to issue employees with pay slips.

Nine South Korean nationals were underpaid a total of $19,467 in wages between October and December 2017. They were also collectively owed $7416 in super.

The workers were all on visas – working holiday, student and vocational – and were all aged in their 20s or 30s.

The matter was also the first time a case has come under the newly-introduced Protecting Vulnerable Worker laws, which increase penalties for non-compliance with payment laws.

“This is the first decision in a matter filed by the Fair Work Ombudsman under the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws, which increased penalties for record-keeping and pay slip breaches,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.

“Workers have a right to rely on pay slips to understand their workplace entitlements, particularly visa holders who may be vulnerable due to language or cultural barriers.”

Judge Michael Jarrett labelled the operator’s actions as “reckless”, adding that their breaches were “particularly serious”.

“When an employer does not make and keep employment records, an effective safety net for employees is difficult to maintain and results in those employees being more vulnerable to exploitation,” Judge Jarrett said.

“I am satisfied that the respondents’ conduct, whilst not deliberate, was plainly grossly reckless,” he said.

“There is no evidence that they made any enquiries whatsoever about the correct entitlements for their employees at any point after they took over from the previous business owner.”

All wages and superannuation have been back-paid.