The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the operators of three ‘Tokyo Sushi’ outlets - including two in Erina - for allegedly underpaying 31 workers more than $70,000.
The work watchdog alleges 16 employees at two Tokyo Sushi outlets at Erina were underpaid a total of $48,318 over six months between January and July last year.
The operator of the three outlets - the other being in Newcastle - is facing the Federal Court.
Eight of the allegedly 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 inspectors audited the three Tokyo Sushi outlets as part of a proactive compliance activity last year that involved inspectors visiting more than 40 sushi outlets across NSW, the Gold Coast and Canberra, to check workers were being paid correctly.
It is alleged inspectors found that pay rates at the three Tokyo Sushi outlets at Newcastle and the Central Coast did not comply with the Fast Food Industry Award 2010, with workers instead paid flat hourly rates ranging between $9 and $19 on weekdays, plus an additional 25 per cent on Saturdays and an additional 50 per cent on Sundays.
The approach allegedly led to underpayment of the minimum weekday rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work. Superannuation and minimum engagement entitlements were allegedly also underpaid and record-keeping laws were allegedly contravened.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action has been commenced because of the involvement of vulnerable workers and the blatant nature of the alleged underpayments.
“Employers should be aware that we treat the underpayment of young and overseas workers particularly seriously,” Ms James said.
“Young workers and workers from migrant backgrounds can be more vulnerable to exploitation as they are often reluctant to complain or are less aware of their rights.
“My agency is committed to sending a message to all business operators that anyone who attempts to capitalise on these vulnerabilities can expect to face serious enforcement action,” Ms James said.
The operator faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and Hasegawa & Ye International Pty Ltd and Heiwa International Pty Ltd each face penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention for a number of alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act.