NSW Chang Yen Chang owned and operated the Scamander Beach Resort Hotel in Tasmania until 2014 through his business Yenida.
Mr Chang and Yenida were found by the Federal Circuit Court to have breached racial discrimination rules by deliberately singling out the couple for discrimination because they were Malaysian of Chinese descent.
The couple were treated to differently to other employees, and forced to work additional hours which were not recorded. Over time, this amounted to the couple being underpaid by more than $28,000.
“Mr Chang was well aware of his obligations to pay them their entitlements under the relevant awards. They were taken advantage of, coming from Malaysia and being of Chinese descent,” the judge ruled.
“[He] decided to recruit employees from Malaysia, in part because he knew a Malaysian would accept working six days a week and he knew that it was usual in Malaysia to work six or seven days.”
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Natalie James, it is the first time her office has taken legal action on the grounds of racial discrimination.
“This employer knew that all staff were lawfully entitled to minimum award pay rates but chose to pay the Malaysian couple significantly less than Australian staff because of their race, which is unlawful and completely unacceptable,” Ms James said.
“It is an uncomfortable truth that racial discrimination is a driver behind some of the exploitation of migrant workers in this country.
“The court’s ruling in this matter sends a message that singling out migrant workers for exploitation is serious unlawful conduct and significant penalties apply.
That ruling was that Mr Chang pay a personal fine of $35,099, while his company was ordered to pay $176,005 — amounting to total penalties of $211,104.