A HUSBAND and wife who underpaid one of their workers by almost $10 an hour have been slugged with $50,000 in fines.
Guo Hui Liu and his wife, Jun Hong Ma, who ran an importing and wholesaling business in Huntingdale, were ordered by the Federal Court to pay the worker, who had been underpaid for the past five years, more than $60,000.
The couple also face about $11,500 in personal fines and their company, Top Value International, was slapped with a $42,240 fine.
Top Value International has since been sold and the new owners and operators have no connection with the current case.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said the court decision sent a message to employers.
"Blatant non-compliance with minimum pay rates is not acceptable and such conduct will not be allowed to go unpunished," he said.
Fair Work inspectors began investigating the couple following a complaint from the worker who had been employed to pack and organise stock, drive a forklift and clean.
The court heard that between November 2005 and June 2010 the worker, who is in his 50s, was paid a flat rate of $12.50 an hour. He was entitled to $21 an hour and $31 for overtime.
Magistrate Norah Hartnett found that Liu and Ma had disregarded workplace laws. "The purpose of the legislation is to provide a safety net that ensures adequate minimum entitlements to employees, particularly those whom are vulnerable or in low income roles," she said.
"The legislation is also designed to provide an even playing field for all employers with regard to employment costs."