An Auckland restaurant and its owners have been ordered to pay nearly $50,000 in penalties and unpaid wages to a migrant worker.
The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found Dansan Investments Ltd, which operates as Saaj Indian Cuisine, and its two directors, Mary George Varghese and Sheik Abdul Kader, were liable for $32,000 owed in wage arrears.
One third of the $16,100 in penalties is to be paid directly to the exploited worker, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said today.
After a Labour Inspectorate investigation into Dansan Investments, the ERA heard how the worker was told to make a $6000 premium payment to the employers to secure an application for her work visa.
She borrowed money from friends to pay the employers, under the threat that the work visa application would not be supported without payment.
"This is yet another example of an employer using their position of power to exploit a migrant worker, who relies on them for a work visa and their right to continue to live and work in New Zealand," Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said.
Lumsden said migrants should never have to pay a "premium" or any extra cost to secure a work visa from their employers.
"For employers to demand such a payment is illegal," he said. "The ERA also made it very clear that this type of offending will not be tolerated."
MBIE said the employment agreement showed the worker would work a minimum of 35 hours a week, and although she worked between 40 and 65.5 hours a week, she was only paid for between 28 and 33 hours.
There were also no holiday payments and time and a half for working on public holidays.
Lumsden said Dansan Investments also had no clear wage records.
"This required the investigation to source alternative proof, in this case the use of public transport travel records, to disprove Dansan's claim that she didn't work at the restaurant during those times."
This was also not the first time that Dansan Investments has been investigated by the Labour Inspectorate. In 2015 a former employee complained about a failure to pay minimum entitlements and the inspectorate issues an improvement notice, which wasn't adhered to by the company.
Anyone concerned about the employment situation for themselves or someone they know can call MBIE's contact centre on 0800 20 90 20.