Three payroll officers that were found to have reverse-engineered false records during a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation were fined a total of $121,000. This is the largest penalty order won by the Ombudsman since its inception.
The Ombudsman was conducting an enquiry into several Hero Sushi outlets which had underpaid several International Students and persons on Working Holiday Visas. A total of 94 employees were underpaid over a period between 2015 and 2016. The total underpayments exceeded $700,000.
The Court found that there was a deliberate strategy by the employer to underpay staff. Justice Flick of the Federal Court noted that the Employer attempted to keep employees in the dark by failing to provide employees with pay slips and records to cross check their earnings. This strategy was also employed to avoid scrutiny around failure to pay loadings.
When an investigation was commenced by the Ombudsman into the stores, it was discovered that a significant number of false and misleading documents had been created by the employer in an attempt to cover up the wrongdoing of the Company. The total penalties imposed on the company was $891,000, which could have largely been avoided had there been an early admission of wrongdoing.