18 May 2020

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s media release brags, “The Federal Court has today imposed record penalties of $891,000 against the operators of three Hero Sushi takeaway outlets for underpaying workers and providing false records to the FWO.” This is certainly welcome… but those who read the Federal Court judgment will find that the regulator cut a deal that slashed the penalty the company is required to pay — and slashed it so severely that the Court couldn’t follow the reasoning: “The principles applied by the Fair Work Ombudsman in, for example, agreeing to that reduction, proved to be elusive. … [C]onsiderable misgivings were expressed during the course of the hearing in the present case as to the quantum of penalties agreed upon… [T]he manner in which the ‘Agreed penalty after totality’ was determined … occasioned the greatest concern. … But for the endorsement on the part of the Fair Work Ombudsman as to the appropriateness of those penalties, the Court itself may well have imposed considerably higher penalties.” Although FWO quotes from the judgment in its press release, it left these comments out for some inexplicable reason. (Note that despite engaging in what the Court called “fraud”, this was not a criminal prosecution because the FWO never prosecutes criminal bosses.)