Wellington grocery store fined for exploiting worker

woman shopping at a grocery storeA Wellington grocery store has been fined more than $53,000 by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for employment law breaches, including making a migrant employee pay more than $10,000 in premiums.

The employer, Sun 2 Moon Limited, located on Willis Street in the Wellington CBD and operated by Luv Kumar Khatter, required the migrant worker to pay more than $10,000 in premiums, by way of a payment of $5000 upfront, $3240 in regular small cash payments, and $2167 funding company expenses on the employees personal credit card.

The employee was also given a pay below the minimum wage, had not been paid for all the hours worked, and had not received holiday pay or additional pay for working on public holidays.

The ERA ordered the money to be returned to the employee, citing premiums as an abuse of the power imbalance between employers and employees, particularly where the employer is effectively taking advantage of a migrant worker.

A total of $25,000 was ordered to be paid as a penalty for breaching the Minimum Wage Act, Employment Relations Act, Wages Protection Act and Holidays Act by the ERA, in addition to the $28,781.23 is to be paid to the employee for minimum wage arrears, reimbursement of premiums and holiday pay arrears.

“The exploitation of migrant workers in New Zealand is unacceptable,” said Loua Ward, Labour Inspectorate regional manager.

“No employer should require employees to pay premiums or pay wages back. Employees must be paid for all hours they work, and employers are required by law to keep proper time and wage records for all staff,” Ward said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Labour Inspectorate brought the case before the ERA against Sun 2 Moon Limited, after receiving a complaint from the employee about being paid less than the minimum wage, not being paid for all hours worked, being required to pay premiums, and not receiving holiday pay or additional pay for working on public holidays.

“The level of non-compliance identified during this investigation was very disappointing given the significant breaches of minimum employment standards,” Ward said.

“This ruling sends a clear message to employers that failure to comply with minimum employment labour standards will not be tolerated.”

Ward said employers who breach the employment law will be subjected to enforcement action, which can include penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals, and $100,000 or three times the financial gain for a company.

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