A New South Wales sushi outlet operator and an accountant have been fined almost $200,000 for their involvement in an unlawful internship program that exploited young overseas workers.
The Federal Circuit Court handed down penalties of $161,760 against Kjoo Pty Ltd after workers were exploited at the Masaki sushi outlet at Stockland Shellharbour Shopping Centre, south of Wollongong.
Kjoo manager and part owner Hyo Jun “John” Kwon was fined $32,352, while his accountant Ok Gyu Lim was penalised $4608 for his involvement in preparing false records that were submitted to the Fair Work Ombudsman during its investigation.
Between September 2014 and July 2015, the Masaki outlet underpaid three workers a total of $51,025.
The women came to Australia from Korea on 417 working holiday visas and began working at the outlet as part of a so-called ‘Internship Agreement’ between their private Korean college and Kwon’s company.
Under the agreement the workers were paid flat rates of between $12 and $13.50 per hour in cash, each working more than 38 hours per week.
However, as the agreement was not authorised under Australian law and the work performed at Masaki was not a formal part of the workers’ college studies, the workers were properly classified as employees and entitled to be paid the minimum pay rates that applied under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010.
Judge Philip Dowdy said there was a “deliberate, intentional and informed decision by Kjoo, through Mr Kwon, to underpay the employees to gain a financial advantage for its business”.