Sydney-based media company, AIMG BQ, linked to Ostar International Media Group, was fined AUD 272,850 this past week for allegedly disguising employees as interns.
The penalty, as reported by Anna Patty of The Sydney Morning Herald, was imposed by judge Tom Altobelli, finding it "unlawful for the so-called internship to be unpaid."
Zhao Qing Jiang, a director in the company, was also fined A$8160 for his failure to comply with a notice to produce documents to Fair Work inspectors. A three-year injunction has been imposed on him to prevent further breaches of workplace laws.
The company, which runs Chinese-language websites and publications for Australia's Chinese community, admitted it underpaid two event co-ordinators $18,767 between October 2013 and June 2014.
That meant a 24-year-old student from China was required to work 180 hours, on tasks such as office cleaning and event organising, over four months for no pay.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the court found it unlawful for the so-called internship to be unpaid because the student was performing productive work that was not a formal part of her studies.
After completing the "internship", she was paid $50 a day, or $6.56 an hour - $8387 below the legal rate.