The Federal Circuit Court found Melbourne company Davdot and its director David Leslie Hinchcliffe guilty of underpaying three casual employees by $10,428, between October 2015 and August 2016.
That was despite a previous investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman of the business in 2011.
Davdot and Mr Hinchcliffe were found to have underpaid the employees for some shifts, failed to have made any payments for others, and did not make or retain relevant employee records or payslips.
Pay for one of the workers, who had performed cleaning duties at two Melbourne hotels, allegedly fell short of what they were entitled to by $8,294.
That employee was a South Korean national who at the time was on a bridging visa prior to becoming a permanent resident.
In issuing the hefty penalties, Judge Grant Riethmuller claimed there had been “a history of non-compliance”, based on two previous small claims proceedings, and that the business and its director “were clearly on notice as to their obligations and have therefore deliberately ignored that advice”.
He added that the underpayments were “very significant to two of the employees (given their income levels)”.
While acknowledging the wage underpayments had been rectified after the legal proceedings had begun, Judge Riethmuller ordered that interest on those payments also be made.
“All employers have a clear obligation under Australia’s workplace laws to pay correct wages and entitlements and rectify areas of concern the Fair Work Ombudsman raises with them. If companies do not improve compliance with workplace laws, we are clearly prepared to take court action that can lead to heavy financial penalties,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said after the judgement was handed down.
“The underpayment of overseas workers is particularly serious as they may be more vulnerable and unaware of their workplace rights, face language barriers or are reluctant to complain.”
According to its website, Davdot provides professional cleaning services to a range of commercial sectors, including to the office, hospitality and retail markets.