A Kingsland cafe has been told to pay its former chef $15,000 after unfairly sacking her over a series of disagreements, including complaints of poor work and her liking for Indian music.
Talent Bean, which trades as Roasted Addiqtion Cafe, was found by the Employment Relations Authority to have unjustifiably dismissed Prema D'Souza as head chef in April.
The company said Ms D'Souza wasted food, did not know the different types of tofu, used expired food and could not make hash browns, pancakes and brownies.
And it said she "insisted on listening to Indian music and speaking Hindi", affecting customers.
The firm also said Ms D'Souza did not have abilities a head chef should have and was costing it money.
Talent Bean, whose sole director and shareholder is Vincent Yonglin Shan, was ordered to pay $10,000 in compensation, $1848 in lost wages and $3500 to cover costs of investigations by the authority.
ERA member Anna Fitzgibbon said in her judgment that none of the issues raised by the company with the authority had ever been raised with Ms D'Souza, and described Mr Shan's response to a request by Ms D'Souza to discuss her concerns as "harsh and unjustifiable".
Ms Fitzgibbon said Talent Bean's actions in issuing warnings and a dismissal by email without discussion were not those of a fair and reasonable employer. Mr Shan could not be contacted yesterday, and did not return Herald calls.
Ms D'Souza, 28, told the Herald she felt her former employer's claims were "insulting" and believed there was nothing wrong in enjoying listening to Radio Tarana in the cafe kitchen and holding conversations in Hindi with her colleague, a Fiji Indian.
"Nowhere in my contract does it say I cannot listen to Indian music and I think sometimes it is easier and more effective to communicate with my staff in our native language."
Ms D'Souza moved to New Zealand from Mumbai, India, in October 2010 with her husband and son, now 6.
She started working as a sous chef at Roasted Addiqtion last year after completing cookery training at the North Shore International Academy.
The cafe was then sold to Mr Shan, who took over running it with family members. The head chef, kitchen hand and head waiter left and Ms D'Souza was promoted to head chef until she was fired four months later.