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Tokyo Sushi boss slapped with $380k fine for ripping off staff

The operator of three Tokyo Sushi outlets has been fined for underpaying staff. (Photo: Getty)

The operator of three ‘Tokyo Sushi’ outlets in regional NSW has been asked to pay up $383,616 for underpaying staff by more than $70,000.

The Federal Circuit Court has slapped Kiyoshi Hasegawa with a $63,936 penalty for underpaying 31 employees that worked in three outlets across Newcastle and the Central Coast in 2016.

The two companies owned by Hasegawa and her family, Hasegawa & Ye International Pty Ltd and Heiwa International Pty Ltd, have also been ordered to pay $150,120 and $169,560 respectively, according to a statement by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Hasegawa and the companies admitted to underpaying 16 staff that worked at two Tokyo Sushi outlets in the Central Coast’s Erina Fair shopping centre in a six-month period, totalling $48,318.

They also admitted to underpaying 15 employees that worked at the Tokyo sushi outlet in Fletcher, Newcastle, during an eight-month period that saw staff underpaid $22,567 in total.

Several of the underpaid employees had visas, and eight were junior workers between the ages of 16 and 20, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Newcastle outlet workers were paid weekday hourly rates of between $9 to $19; Central Coast workers were paid between $10 and $19, as well as an additional 25 per cent on Saturdays and 50 per cent on Sundays.

This meant that minimum weekday rates, casual loadings and penalty rates were not paid in full.

The companies also broke laws about superannuation entitlements, record-keeping, and Heiwa International broke minimum engagement period obligations.

There was “no excuse” for the contraventions, said Judge Philip Dowdy.

“The simple fact of the matter is that persons who engage in business activities which necessitate the employment of staff are under a strict obligation to pay their staff the just entitlements of the staff in accordance with law, whether the relevant employer is a major corporation or, as here, a family business,” said Judge Dowdy.

“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.”

The underpayment was discovered when audits were conducted across more than 40 sushi outlets in Canberra, South-East Queensland, the Hunter, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour, and NSW’s North Coast regions.

Bad bosses in the fast food industry, watch out

Improving workplace compliance in the fast food industry was a priority, said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“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,” she said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman takes the blatant underpayment of vulnerable workers particularly seriously, which has been supported by the Court’s substantial penalty.”

Inspectors will continue to conduct audits across the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector, she added, and encouraged workers with concerns about pay to get in touch with the FWO.

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

Most of the underpayments have been back-paid, with Hasegawa and the companies ordered to back-pay the outstanding amounts within 28 days.

The companies have also been ordered to commission an external audit of their compliance, rectify any other underpayments uncovered, display workplace notices about workers’ rights, and inform workers about the FWO’s ‘Record My Hours’ app.

To get in touch with the Fair Work Ombudsman, visit fairwork.gov.au or call the Infoline on 13 13 94.

Hasegawa & Ye International Pty Ltd has ceased operating Tokyo Sushi – The Corner Store in Erina Fair Shopping Centre since July 2017.

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