Tokyo Sushi operators cop hefty $383,616 fine

By Sarah Stowe | 03 Jun 2019 View comments

Tokyo Sushi operators fined $383,616 by the Federal Circuit Court had underpaid workers more than $70,000.

The court imposed personal penalties of $63,936 against Kiyoshi Hasegawa for her role in underpaying a total of 31 employees in 2016.

The court also fined two companies Hasegawa and her family own. Hasegawa & Ye International Pty Ltd and Heiwa International Pty Ltd have been penalised $150,120 and $169,560 respectively.

Judge Philip Dowdy said anyone engaged in business who is employing staff, whatever the size of the business, is “under a strict obligation to pay their staff the just entitlements of the staff in accordance with law.

“Employees are entitled to respect and part of that respect is to pay them their full entitlements which must be recognised and known to the employer,” he said.

Most of the underpayments have been rectified but the Court has ordered Hasegawa and the two companies to back-pay the final outstanding amounts to employees within 28 days.

The underpayments came to light in Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) audits of sushi outlets. The FWO took legal action in 2017.

A number of the underpaid employees were visa holders. Eight of the underpaid employees were juniors, including one 17-year-old worker on the Central Coast and seven workers aged between 16 and 20 at the Newcastle outlet.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said improving workplace compliance in the fast food industry is a priority for the regulator.

Fair Work Ombudsman to continue audits in fast food and cafes

“Young migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation if they are reluctant to complain due to visa concerns or unaware of their workplace rights. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes the blatant underpayment of vulnerable workers particularly seriously, which has been supported by the Court’s substantial penalty,” Parker said.

The Ombudsman said inspectors will continue to conduct targeted audits across the fast food, restaurant and café sector.

“We will hold employers accountable if they are not meeting their lawful obligations,” Parker said.

Pay rates at the three Tokyo Sushi outlets at Newcastle and the Central Coast did not comply with the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. Workers were paid hourly rates on weekdays ranging between $9 and $19 at the Newcastle outlets and between $10 and $19 at the Central Coast store. An extra 25 per cent was paid on Saturdays and an additional 50 per cent on Sundays.