A former Dunedin pharmacy owner has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in wage arrears to three workers who were paid less than the minimum wage.
In her written judgement, Employment Court Judge Christina Inglis said she did not accept Ravi Vohora's argument that the three women were effectively in training as pharmacy technicians from the day they started their duties at the former Maori Hill and Balmacewen Pharmacy.
She ordered Vohora to pay three separate amounts for each worker for unpaid wages totalling $5945.87.
Judge Inglis also ordered Vohora to pay one of the former employees, Siraya O'Sullivan, $7500 compensation for unjustifiable constructive dismissal in 2010, and $4590 for lost wages.
She found that in pressuring O'Sullivan to forgo her legal right to seek a review of her wage entitlements through the relevant authority, he placed her in an "invidious" position.
Judge Inglis said she did not accept any of the employees were undertaking an approved course of study to train for the role of pharmacy technician, which is required if an employer is paying trainee wages.
"As none of them was ever enrolled, they were underpaid for the entire period of their employment."
Vohora had appealed an Employment Relations Authority finding to the Employment Court.
Judge Inglis did not impose a penalty sought by the labour inspector for failing to keep accurate wage records, saying while Vohora's record keeping left something to be desired, she was not satisfied a penalty was appropriate.
The parties were invited to reach agreement on costs.
Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment Labour Inspectorate general manager George Mason said in a statement yesterday the ruling should serve as a warning for employers.
"Exceptions to the minimum wage are narrow and clearly defined. A training wage can only be paid to staff that are doing 60 credits a year with a recognised industry training organisation.
"The ministry takes all minimum wage breaches seriously and employers can expect to face strong and determined enforcement action if they refuse to comply with the law."
When contacted, Vohora told the Otago Daily Times he did not accept he had breached the law. However, he would not appeal the judgement.