Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Cafe boss threatens worker

Bruschetteria Cafe in Elliott St, Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Bruschetteria Cafe in Elliott St, Auckland. Photo / Supplied

The owner of a cafe in one of Auckland's trendiest city neighbourhoods has been ordered to pay compensation for his "grossly improper" treatment of a worker.

Bruschetteria eatery's boss, Francesco Arini, threatened to lay a police complaint against an employee in an effort to avoid paying the worker's leave entitlement.

But the threat fell foul of the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), which has ordered the eatery to pay $750 in compensation for the way it levelled dishonesty allegations against its former manager.

Sean Aitkenhead was made redundant from his job of almost three years in August last year. When he pressed owner Arini for the holiday pay he was owed, Arini raised dishonesty allegations against him, including that he had taken alcohol and entertained friends at the cafe at no charge.

"One allegation, apparently made almost baldly, was that if he persevered with the holiday pay claim, the employer would take the dishonesty allegations to police," the ERA said.

The authority found there was no evidence Aitkenhead had done any wrong, and the eatery was using the dishonesty allegations as "a shield" to his continued requests to be paid.

It said the threat was "grossly improper" and Aitkenhead was given no chance to respond.

The ERA noted Bruschetteria was under financial difficulty, and Aitkenhead's redundancy was genuine.

However, the authority found the cafe should pay him $750 for failing to properly consult him on the redundancy, $750 for the way it levelled the allegations against him, and $1635.86 in outstanding holiday pay.

Arini said he stood by his allegation but, as for the threatened police complaint, he said: "I just was pissed off and I wanted to do something to move on with everything."

No police complaint was ever made. And Arini said he would be able to pay the amount the authority ordered.

But Bruschetteria part-owner Donna-Marie Allcock said they were appealing the ruling. "We had a lot of other witness statements that weren't filed."

Aitkenhead could not be reached for comment.

- Herald on Sunday

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