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Indian Restaurant Owners Fined $99K For Exploiting Immigrant Workers

The Chilli Indian Restaurant in Hamilton. Pho: NZ Herald

Three immigrant workers at Chilli India restaurant, who were paid less than $8 per hour and not compensated for all their working hours, faced threats of deportation unless they paid $30,000 to their employers, New Zealand Herald reported. This extortion came to light when one employee reported the issue to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), leading to an investigation that uncovered corruption and exploitation at the Indian restaurant in Hamilton.

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The Employment Relations Authority has now ruled in favour of the employees. JDfoods, trading as Chilli India in Dinsdale and owned by Jayant and Deepti Kaushal, has since closed.

According to a recent decision, the MBIE inspector's claim, backed by extensive evidence, revealed that JDfoods coerced employees into making payments under the threat of losing their jobs and their right to remain in New Zealand. The investigation found that some employees were paid as little as $7.68 per hour, were not compensated for all hours worked, and were never paid for public holidays.

One scheme involved employee Diksha Diksha, who was promised support for her residence application in exchange for a $30,000 payment. The Kaushals attempted to obscure these payments by transferring money to their parents in India and then to an associate, Amit Seth, who transferred it back to them.

The Kaushals defended themselves by alleging a conspiracy against them, spending nine days cross-examining the inspector’s witnesses. However, their defence was undermined when Deepti Kaushal admitted to fabricating evidence and coercing other witnesses to lie. The presiding officer, Loftus, described the Kaushals' testimony as "bald assertions" and noted their witnesses were "doing nothing but lying."

Loftus ruled against JDfoods, finding them guilty of several employment law breaches, including failing to pay minimum wages, holiday pay, and annual leave. The penalties included:

  • JDfoods must pay $18,496.38 for unpaid minimum wages, public holidays, and annual holiday pay.
  • JDfoods must pay $42,323.04 for premiums received from employees.
  • JDfoods must pay $7,387.71 in interest on the owed amounts.
  • JDfoods must pay $21,000 in penalties and breaches to the inspector.
  • Jayant and Deepti Kaushal must pay a combined $10,500 in penalties and breaches to the inspector.

The ruling marks a significant victory for the exploited workers and highlights the ongoing issue of workplace exploitation among immigrant employees in New Zealand

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