Australia-based Sushi Bay ACT has paid $124,416 in penalties to the Fair Work Ombudsman for deliberately underpaying migrant workers in Canberra.

The Federal Circuit Court has asked Sushi Bay ACT owner and operator Rebecca Yi Jeong Shin to pay $20,736 and her company a further $103,680 to the independent statutory agency after admitting to underpaying 22 employees.

Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors conducted an investigation and discovered the underpayments at Sushi Bay Belconnen’s more than 40 sushi outlets across Canberra, South-East Queensland, the Hunter, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour and North Coast regions in New South Wales.

The company underpaid a total of $18,671 to 22 employees worked at Sushi Bay Belconnen locations between November 2015 and March 2016.

Most of the underpaid employees were Korean nationals who were in Australia on working holiday and student visas.

Following the court order, the employees were repaid amounts ranging from $103 to $1,992.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker noted that Shin’s conduct exploited vulnerable workers who were young and/or migrants.

Parker said: “Addressing exploitation of vulnerable workers and non-compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector are key compliance and enforcement priorities for the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“We will continue to conduct audits across the fast food, restaurant and café sector and we will hold employers accountable if they are not meeting their lawful obligations.”

In addition, Judge Brana Obradovic also ordered Sushi Bay ACT to commission an external audit of its compliance and rectify any underpayments found.

Obradovic also asked the company to commission workplace relations training for Shin, senior managers and payroll staff.