The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $78,220.80 in penalties against a Japanese restaurant in Adelaide.

CNL Group Pty Ltd, which operates Gyoza Gyoza in the CBD under a franchise agreement, was penalised $66,528, with sole director Yu Bing Li penalised $11,692.80.

The court found Li breached the Fair Work Act after hindering and obstructing inspectors at the restaurant in January 2019.

The Ombudsman carried out an investigation after receiving requests for assistance from two Japanese visa holders who were employed as waitresses at the restaurant.

Li provided inspectors with false payment records and false pay slips, which were never given to workers.

With the support of the workers’ own payment records, as well as pictures taken by one of the waitresses, the court found the company and Li paid workers as little as $12 per hour.

The underpayments occurred from April to August 2018 and resulted in a breach of minimum wage rates, weekend penalty rates and late-night loadings under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

Judge Stewart Brown, in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, regarded the conduct of CNL and Mrs Li as “extremely serious”, finding two vulnerable workers had been exploited and left “living hand to mouth”.

Noting that CNL Group had previously been formally cautioned by the Fair Work Ombudsman for underpaying workers and failing to issue pay slips, Judge Brown found that the breaches were deliberate.

His Honour said that the conduct in the matter involved “calculated action designed to frustrate the application of the industrial safety net to vulnerable employees”.

Judge Brown said there was a need to provide a general deterrence message to the industry that “the community will not tolerate the exploitation of employees”.

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