An Auckland restaurant chain alleged to have paid workers less than $4 an hour has been taken to the Employment Relations Authority.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it had filed an action with the ERA demanding the business owners provide wages and time records, holiday and leave records and employment agreements for about 100 staff across the chain.
The owners had allegedly failed to meet a deadline to provide the records -which were required to be kept by law - and the ministry was also seeking penalties for failure to comply.
A total of 15 companies associated with the restaurant chain were allegedly involved, with each facing a maximum penalty of $20,000.
The ERA said it would not release the name of the chain because the parties had not gone into mediation yet.
Ministry labour inspectorate northern manager David Milne said the ERA action was a first step, but if breaches were found to have occurred, further enforcement action was likely.
"The exploitation of workers is not welcome and breaches New Zealand law. The labour inspectorate will not hesitate to enforce and prosecute breaches of minimum employment standards such as minimum wage and holiday entitlements," he said.
"Most fair-minded New Zealanders do not support labour exploitation. By breaking the law, these businesses gain an unfair advantage over their competitors."
Mr Milne urged anyone who was in a similar situation or who knew of people who were to contact the ministry on 0800 20 90 20.