A regional motel management company has been ordered to pay $280,000 in penalties for underpaying two Filipino workers.
The Federal Circuit Court has ordered Michael and Rowena Sicco Parkes and the company they operate together, NSW Motel Management Services Pty Ltd, to pay the penalties after underpaying two workers to the tune of $134,535.
The case came before the court after the Department of Immigration and Border Protection raised a red flag with the Fair Work Ombudsman, which investigated the workers' situation.
The company had recruited two Filipino couples to work full-time in its motels on 457 skilled worker visas but only paid wages to the woman in each couple, the ombudsman found.
The men were paid little-to-nothing, with the FWO alleging in court the motel was offering an unlawful "two-for-one deal".
All four workers were busy with duties such as reception, cleaning and laundry, cooking, waiting on tables, maintenance work and gardening.
The company runs the Comfort Inn Country Plaza at Halls Gap in Victoria and the Quality Inn Country Plaza at Queanbeyan in NSW, and used to run the Comfort Inn Country Plaza in Taree in NSW.
One of the couples worked at all three of the motels between November 2012 and January 2015, while another was employed at the Halls Gap venue between February 2013 and April 2014.
The latter was underpaid $61,578.48, while the man who worked across the three motels was underpaid $72,957.20, with the underpayments rectified in 2016.
Judge John O'Sullivan found the company and its operators had acted in a manner "so egregious" it demanded a substantial penalty.
The company was penalised $220,000 for the underpayment and Michael Parkes was penalised $50,000.
Rowena Sioco Parkes was specifically penalised $10,000 for her part in breaches of law over adverse action and cashing out annual leave.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said her authority wouldn't hesitate to take legal action if visa-holders are denied their basic lawful entitlements.
"Enforcing compliance with workplace laws in the hospitality sector and taking action to protect vulnerable workers continue to be priorities for the Fair Work Ombudsman," she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Australian Associated Press