Disabled man paid less than minimum wage for car yard work

By Heather McCracken

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A disabled man who was paid less than minimum wage for his work at a car sales yard has been awarded more than $6000 in lost wages and compensation.

Nathan Gunning, who has cerebral palsy and a degree of autism, worked for Bankrupt Vehicle Sales and Finance Limited at a Christchurch car yard in August and September 2012.

The company provides finance to people with poor credit ratings and sells motor vehicles.

In 2010 he bought a car with the company and fell behind in his payments.

He was offered work following up delinquent complaints by owner and director Susan Chapman, with his wages initially credited to his loan account.

When he stopped working for the company, Shane Bell took over the role, and Mr Gunning was employed to do a few small tasks for Mr Bell.

He was later employed to work at the company's new yard, managed by Mr Bell, and paid $50 for each day he worked.

In September 2012 he queried payment of commission for car sales, and was told he would be paid only for cash sales, not those financed by the company.

This was not his understanding, and he asked for a written employment agreement, which had not been provided earlier.

According to an Employment Court decision, Ms Chapman told him: "If you're gonna act like that, I'll call it quits. If you have that attitude, never expect to get a job someplace else."

He was told his wages had been paid up to that day, which he took to mean he was dismissed.

The Employment Relations Authority found Mr Gunning was a casual employee of the company but had not been dismissed, and therefore his personal grievance claim failed.

He appealed against that decision to the Employment Court which found that Mr Gunning was dismissed, apparently in response to asserting his right to have a written employment agreement.

"That was plainly unjustifiable", said the decision by Judge Tony Couch.

The court also found Mr Gunning was not paid minimum wage for the days he worked - the Minimum Wage Act requires workers on a daily rate to be paid at least $108 per day.

He was awarded $509 in wage arrears, $1516 in lost wages, and $4000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.

- APNZ

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