Sushi chain accused of underpaying Canberra workers by $18k

Legal action has been launched against the owner of a chain of Australian sushi outlets for allegedly exploiting overseas workers in Canberra.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says Sushi Bay Belconnen, owned by Rebecca Yi Jeong Shin, underpaid 22 workers a total of $18,671 over five months between November 2015 and March 2016.

Most of the allegedly underpaid staff were Korean nationals in Australia on working holiday or student visas, and four were still teens, aged between 17 and 19.

Ms Shin also owns and operates sushi outlets across NSW, Queensland, and the Northern Territory.

Inspectors auditing the chain last year visited more than 40 Australian restaurants to check workers were being paid correctly, and allegedly found pay rates at Sushi Bay Belconnen did not comply with the current industry award.

Staff were underpaid amounts ranging from $103 to $1992, the Ombudsman said, including weekday rates, penalty rates and casual loading.

Sushi Bay ACT has since rectified the underpayments in full.

It is also alleged that record-keeping and part-time agreement laws were breached.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said underpayment allegations from Ms Shin's employees dated as far back as 2007 and the business owner had previously been put on notice to fix non-compliance issues.

The involvement of young and vulnerable workers was particularly concerning, Ms James said.

In May 2015, Ms Shin had been formally cautioned by the Ombudsman with "enforcement action" for future breaches.

She now faces penalties of up to $10,800 for each breach, while her company could be penalised up to $54,000 per contravention.

This story Sushi chain accused of underpaying Canberra workers by $18k first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.