Cafe owners to pay $50,000 to two ‘vulnerable’ workers

Husband and wife owners of The Bakehouse Café in Taumarunui must pay $70,000 in penalties, plus $20,000 compensation to two employees, following a judgment by the Employment Court. A further $30,191.11 in outstanding wages and holiday pay arrears had been paid to the employees prior to the Court hearing.

The Employment Court ordered Sok Hoiring Chhoir and Rattanak Heng, trading as The Bakehouse Café, to pay penalties of $50,000 and $20,000, respectively, for breaches of minimum employment standards legislation including the Minimum Wage Act 1983 and the Holidays Act 2003.

The Court also ordered that they pay $10,000 compensation to each of the two affected employees.

This is in addition to the $36,191 arrears the employers already agreed to pay back to the two employees, for minimum wage and holiday pay breaches.

The Labour Inspectorate investigated the business after receiving a complaint on behalf of the employees. The investigation showed the employer did not keep accurate wage, time, and holiday and leave records for the employees. Also, the employer did not pay the employees the minimum wage or their full annual and public holiday entitlements.

This case is a good example of how vulnerable migrant workers can be, says Labour Inspectorate National Manager Stu Lumsden.

“These two workers were new to the district, spoke English as a second language and were without extensive support networks. The employer was opportunistic in breaching their rights, recognising the employees were unfamiliar with New Zealand employment laws and their rights and entitlements.

“In some weeks, they worked for a total of 77 hours each, double what was on their employment agreements, and for less than the minimum wage. The employees spoke about how they felt cheated and exploited, that they were fearful of losing their jobs, and that the experience was traumatic.

“The employees did the right thing in a very difficult situation. They realised their rights were being breached, that the work they were being asked to do was different than what was on their employment agreements, and they got a complaint through to the MBIE contact centre to get help.”

Anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know is advised to call our contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.