Online phone card vendor Lightfield Investments was fined $54,000 for failing to pay two computer engineers for more than four months work.
The company and its office manager Hoong Kee Tang were sentenced on Thursday morning by Chief Industrial Magistrate Gregory Hart at the NSW Chief Industrial Magistrate's Court.
According to court documents, Lightfield Investments had not paid Weidong He and Wenfeng Hu for full-time work done between 1 March and 13 July, 2008.
Both employees were from non-English speaking backgrounds and were induced to continue working by "repeated assurances" from Tang that they would receive back payments shortly.
No such payment was made.
"Both employees worked for a period of several months without receiving any pay whatsoever," Hart determined.
"At all material times, both defendants were clearly on notice that these two employees were working full-time for [Lightfield Investments] and were being paid nothing for their services."
The company, which operated out of Sydney and Melbourne, was fined $54,000 for four breaches of the Workplace Relations Act.
- Failing to meet the federal minimum wage;
- Failing to pay employees in a timely fashion;
- Failing to pay for annual leave;
- Failing to pay accrued annual leave entitlements.
Lightfield Investments was also ordered to pay He and Hu a total of $30,105.08 in back payments and interest, although Hart said this was "significantly lower than the actual loss suffered by the two men".
For his involvement, office manager Tang was fined $8500
The court proceedings were initiated by the Fair Work Ombudsman on behalf of He and Hu, last August.
The ombudsman's executive director Michael Campbell said it would take action against employers that exploited 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.