The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $355,000 in penalties against the operators of a Brisbane sushi restaurant after it was found that the company deliberately underpaid staff and falsified records.

Delishesco Pty Ltd, which operates Moga Izakaya & Sushi in Paddington, was imposed a penalty of $305,000 whiles its sole director and restaurant manager Yinan Yang received a penalty of $50,000.

The total penalties are the second highest the Ombudsman has obtained in a Queensland matter and one of the highest obtained nationally.

Despite previous caution from the Fair Work Ombudsman for underpaying staff, the company deliberately underpaid employees a total of $75,716 between December 2018 and March 2019.

Inspectors investigated after one of the workers contacted Fair Work to reveal that he was being paid just $16 an hour.

Later it was found that 34 employees were variously underpaid minimum wage rates, casual loadings, overtime, split-shift allowances, and penalty rates for weekend, public holiday and night work, under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 and National Employment Standards. 

In addition, Delishesco Pty Ltd breached record-keeping payslip laws with Yang involved in all contraventions.

Individual underpayments ranged from $92 to $9588, and the company only back paid the workers after legal action was taken.

Most of the workers were employed as wait staff, cooks, kitchenhands, and dishwashers or were in casual positions.

Majority of the employees were Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai visa holders while some were young workers aged between 19 and 20.

The company and its sole director knowingly provided the Fair Work Ombudsman false records during an investigation.

The court were satisfied that eight of the underpayment contraventions were considered serious contraventions under the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws where significantly higher maximum penalties are available.

Image credit: Eat Liven Love