Company owner ordered to pay over $20k to ex-employee

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A decorating company owner who refused to pay an employee and stopped picking him up for work has been ordered to pay over $20,000 in compensation and lost wages.

The Employment Relations Authority heard John Hiddleston was employed by Brian Hooper - who traded as Caspa Decorating - as a brush hand painter from January 7.

Mr Hiddleston did painting and preparation work for Mr Hooper. His pay rate was $20 per hour and he worked 40 hours per week.

He was not given an employment agreement.

Mr Hiddleston was a disqualified driver. Mr Hooper knew about his disqualification and arranged for Mr Hiddleston to be picked up and dropped off at the end of each day.

His pay was deposited into his bank account weekly on a Wednesday night.

On Tuesday, April 2, Mr Hooper advised Mr Hiddleston that he had no more work for him for the rest of the week.

Later that week Mr Hiddleston became aware there was no money available in his account.

He said tried to call his employer, but Mr Hooper did not answer.

Later that week Mr Hooper arrived at Mr Hiddleston's house, handed him some money and said words to the effect of "can't stop, here's your money".

Mr Hiddleston counted the money and it worked out to three days' pay after tax. From the amount he was expecting, it was two days short.

The next week, Mr Hiddleston waited at the front gate to be picked up for work, but nobody came.

He tried to call Mr Hooper, but his call was not answered.

ERA member Helen Doyle said there was no good reason why the employment relationship could not have continued if Mr Hooper had simply talked to Mr Hiddleston.

Mr Hooper failed to be responsive and communicative to Mr Hiddleston about his employment which amounted to a dismissal, she said.

"A fair and reasonable employer could have quite simply answered or returned the calls and text messages from Mr Hiddleston."

Ms Doyle found Mr Hiddleston's dismissal was unjustified.

She ordered Mr Hooper to pay Mr Hiddleston $10,400 for lost wages, $9000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings, $832 for unpaid holiday pay and $1982 for costs and disbursements.

Ms Doyle said Mr Hiddleston was embarrassed by the way things ended.

"He had never been unemployed or previously unable to support his partner.

"Mr Hiddleston was not prepared to go onto the unemployment benefit because he had never done that and he borrowed from his elderly mother so that the rent could be paid."

Mr Hiddleston said the late payments of wages had caused him financial embarrassment and the authority heard he had lost confidence and pride in himself since the dismissal.

"He became negative about things and was unmotivated and had trouble sleeping."

- APNZ

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