$423,000 fine for exploitative restaurateurs 'who showed little remorse
The former owners of two North Island restaurants have been ordered to pay more than $423,000 over the exploitation of seven migrant workers.
The Employment Court has ordered Ajay Sharma and Kavita Sharma, who previously owned Prisha's Royal Cambridge Indian Restaurant in Cambridge and Roquette Restaurant and Bar in Whakatane, to pay $339,000 in penalties, compensation and wages owed.
They have also been ordered to pay $78,429 in costs as well as refund the two workers $6522 for premiums they paid the employers.
The breaches, which took place between December 2017 and December 2018, include not paying the minimum wage, not paying for work done, the charging of illegal premiums to two employees, not paying for holidays and sick leave and deducting money without the employee's consent.
Judge Joanna Holden said the Sharmas showed little remorse for the breaches and produced falsified documents to justify their behaviour.
Labour Inspectorate head of compliance Simon Humphries said the judgment was a warning to businesses who exploited vulnerable workers.
"Exploitation of workers is unacceptable. This was deliberate and systemic offending across two businesses," Humphries said.
"The penalties awarded demonstrates the serious nature of this offending and sends a very clear message to businesses who exploit vulnerable workers for their own financial gain. The consequences of such actions could be severe so it's not worth the risk."
In her determination, Judge Holden said some of the employees spoke of feeling "caged" like a slave.
"Those employees were isolated from family; several were young and most were visa-dependant," Judge Holden said.
"The inherent inequality of power in the employment relationship helped make the breaches possible."
Humphries said the Labour Inspectorate would continue to vigorously monitor potential migrant worker exploitation and enforce compliance when necessary.
The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know to phone MBIE's service centre on 0800 20 90 20, where all concerns are handled in a safe environment.