A media company run by prominent broadcaster and businessman Craig Hutchison has been penalised for illegally exploiting young workers.
Interns Australia, which lobbies for the fair treatment of interns, said the ruling was an important step in ensuring greater protections for young and vulnerable job-seekers.
In a significant test of how interns can be treated under industrial law, Crocmedia faced court action after the workplace watchdog found the company had grossly underpaid two workers tens of thousands of dollars.
The Federal Circuit Court on Thursday handed down fines of $24,000 against the Melbourne-based media company, which develops and sells radio, TV and online content.
A probe by the Fair Work Ombudsman revealed serious underpayments of two young people who approached Crocmedia seeking work experience in the industry.
For between six months to a year, the workers produced radio programs for the SEN network and routinely worked multiple weekly shifts, including the "graveyard" shifts from midnight to 6am.
Crocmedia classed the employees as "volunteers" and made reimbursement-for-expenses payments to them for each shift, but did not pay them any wages.
One of the producers was a 20-year-old sports journalism student when she started. The Ombudsman said she should have been paid nearly $6000 but was paid nothing. The other producer when he started was a 23-year-old recent graduate from a university journalism course, who was entitled to $16,400.
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