The Federal Court has imposed record penalties on the operators of thee Hero Sushi outlets for underpaying workers.
Federal Court judge Geoffrey Flick slammed those involved, describing the wage theft and fraud as “driven by greed and exploitation”.
Record penalties for Hero Sushi operators
Deuk Hee “William” Lee and Hokun “Robert” Hwang own and operate Hero Sushi outlets in Canberra, Newcastle and on the Gold Coast.
Between April 2015 and July 2016, they underpaid 94 workers almost $800,000, with ordinary flat rates as low as $12 an hour.
- minimum hourly rates,
- casual loadings,
- penalty rates,
- clothing allowances
- and annual leave entitlements.
In addition they also underpaid superannuation.
Furthermore, the businesses submitted false wage and time records to Fair Work inspectors.
As a result, the court penalised Lee and Hwang $85,000 each, but that’s not all.
The court also penalised two of their companies $225,000 each and a third $150,000.
Finally, the court penalised three payroll officers at Hero Sushi head office a total of $121,000 for their role in the wage theft and records fraud.
Ombudsman welcomes penalties
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker welcomed the record penalties.
“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.”
Case about greed and exploitation
In his judgment, Justice Flick said, “This is a case 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.”
Judge Flick said the size of the penalties needed to show they are not simply the “cost of doing business in the fast food industry.”
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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