An American man has been awarded more than $186,000 by the Employment Relations Authority after a workplace dispute "so extraordinary as to be almost impossible to invent".

According to the determination of ERA member James Crichton, Howard Dell worked for Auckland company Primary Heart Care for 28 months but was never paid.

Despite extensive efforts to involve Primary Heart Care in the ERA process, the only acknowledgement the authority received was a "curious" document from Ngai Tupango Incorporation, which said it acted for the company. "The authority must conclude that [Primary Heart Care's failure to present its case] is wilful, rather than inadvertent," Mr Crichton said.

According to the Companies Office, Primary Heart Care's sole shareholder is John William "Will" Hinchcliff, son of former AUT vice-chancellor Dr John Hinchcliff and nephew of former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Will Hinchcliff could not be reached yesterday and Primary Heart Care did not respond to calls.

Mr Dell told the ERA the only money he had ever received from Primary Heart Care was $6000 towards the purchase of $30,000 worth of equipment he had bought with his own funds.

He was supposed to be getting an annual salary of $80,000.

"Mr Dell assured the authority that there were always promises from Heart Care about money and he persevered until his health failed."

Mr Crichton ordered Primary Heart Care to pay Mr Dell $186,666.