Sydney-based telecommunications company, Lightfield Investments, has been fined $54,000 for underpaying two workers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) alleges the telco underpaid two former employees by more than $30,000, refused to pay workers in a timely fashion and didn’t pay annual leave entitlements.
Lightfield’s office manager, Hoong Kee Tang, has also been fined $8500 for his involvement in the underpayments.
The penalties were handed down in the NSW Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court in Sydney following prosecution by FWO.
Chief Industrial Magistrate, Gregory Hart, ordered the company to back-pay the workers $13,135 and $12,377 respectively, plus interest of $2364 and $2227.
The Fair Work Ombudsman said the telco did not pay the two workers for four months of work. Lightfield had offices in Sydney and Melbourne.
The two employees were both from non-English speaking backgrounds, one only recently arrived from China with very little understanding of English.
“Such employees are particularly vulnerable and readily exploited,” Magistrate Hart said. “In this case, both employees worked for a period of several months without receiving any pay whatsoever.
"They were induced to continue working by repeated assurances … to the effect that their back-pay would be made available in the near future.”
Magistrate Hart said a penalty was required to clearly convey to employers that serious and blatant unlawful conduct calculated to damage and exploit vulnerable employees, will be met with serious penalties.
Fair Work Ombudsman executive director, Michael Campbell, said it would take decisive action against employers who exploit foreign workers.
“Strong and persistent messages need to be sent to employers that both deter this type of behaviour and reinforce the fact that exploitative practices will not be tolerated,” Campbell said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has a number of tools on its website to assist employees and employers check minimum rates of pay.