The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against operators of three Hero Sushi takeaway outlets for allegedly underpaying 94 workers and allegedly creating false records to provide to Fair Work Inspectors during their audit.
The FWO alleges that 94 workers across the three Hero Sushi outlets in Newcastle, Canberra and the Gold Coast were underpaid $694,628 between April 2015 and July 2016.
HSCC Pty Ltd, HSCK Pty Ltd and HSPF Pty Ltd will face the Federal Court in Sydney, alongside company directors Deuk Hee “William” Lee and Hokun “Robert” Hwang, and payroll officers employed at Hero Sushi head office, Chang Seok “Tommy” Lee, Ji Won “Brian” Cho and Jung Sun “Jimmy” Kim.
The FWO alleges that each aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in some of the companies’ breaches of workplace laws.
Fair Work Inspectors discovered the underpayments when auditing the Hero Sushi outlets at Kotara in Newcastle and Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, and the Hero Sushi kiosk at the Canberra Centre during a proactive activity targeting sushi businesses in 2016.
During these audits, inspectors found many workers were paid flat rates for all hours worked – some as little as $12 per hour.
It is alleged the operators failed to pay minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, penalty rates, overtime, clothing allowances, annual leave entitlements and superannuation. The employers also allegedly failed to provide the workers with payslips.
The FWO also alleges the operators provided inspectors with false or misleading records showing inaccurate hours of work and showing employees had been paid higher rates and superannuation, despite this not being true.
Each operator faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention, with the individuals facing a maximum penalty of up to $10,800 per contravention.
The FWO is also seeking court orders requiring that outstanding back-payments and superannuation are paid, and that the three companies undertake an external audit of compliance with workplace laws.
“The FWO considers all allegations of worker exploitation seriously, particularly matters involving migrant workers who may have little understanding of their workplace rights or how to seek help,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.
“Employers who deliberately contravene Australia’s workplace laws will be found out and could face legal action and significant financial penalties from the court.”