An employment advocate who crusades for bullied workers is facing bankruptcy and the liquidation of his company after refusing to pay a long list of penalties for breaching client confidentiality agreements.
CultureSafe director Allan Halse stands by his method of naming and shaming organisations accused of bullying and believes he gives workers a voice.
But others say it's this kind of behaviour that gives employment advocates a bad name and the profession needs to be regulated with a code of conduct.
Now 70 years old, Halse has represented more than 1000 bullied workers and spent much of his career backing the underdog in employment disputes.
Since he set up CultureSafe in 2014 he estimates the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered him and the company to pay penalties topping $200,000 but he hasn't parted with a cent on principle.
"I name and shame because there is nothing else that will stop the bullying, there's no other way of doing it," he said.
"It's something that I've done, I tend to it sparingly but only when we have clients who I believe are at risk of serious self-harm if we don't speak publicly."
CultureSafe has a complicated history with the ERA - but not paying the penalties leaves the organisation and Halse open to bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings which are due to be heard in August in the Hamilton High Court.
He is contesting the move.
"It's a malicious attempt by bad employers to remove the only workplace bullying organisation in New Zealand. We've won the three biggest cases, we've supported and I've personally represented more than 1000 bullied workers."
Other employment advocates have been penalised thousands of dollars for obstructing and delaying investigations heard by the Employment Relations Authority.
Advocates perform a similar role to lawyers in employment disputes but their clients have no means of complaint if things go pear-shaped.
In relation to one case where an advocate was ordered to pay a penalty of $8000, then unsuccessfully sought a judicial review and $20,000 in damages, Employment Court Chief Judge Christina Inglis had this to say.
"There is a limit to the extent to which the Court can appropriately address professional standards issues which arise in respect of the conduct of some (certainly not all) advocates and which impact on often vulnerable litigants, the opposing party and more generally in terms of the efficient and effective administration of justice."
In the determination Justice Inglis also said it "is a matter for Parliament if it so chooses, not the Court".
The Employment Law Institute and Law Society both back calls for employment advocates to be regulated, given there are currently no qualification requirements nor any recourse for complaints from the public.
The institute's president, Kelly Coley, said a small number of unethical advocates are causing financial, psychological and reputational harm to the people they represent.
"You will see more and more awards of penalties against advocates. I certainly wouldn't do anything that would compromise my client to the extent that I get penalised. It's pretty poor form really."
Employment advocate Ashleigh Fechney is known for representing workers on matters relating to the Covid-19 vaccine.
She said regulation was desperately needed to protect the best interests of anyone seeking representation from an advocate.
"To some degree, I'm voluntarily regulated and I totally agree with it because it is a bit like the wild west and clients are disadvantaged sometimes."
It can also be difficult for advocates - she plans to return to her first career choice, law, which she believes also offers professionals a better safety net.
"For me having a safety net to be like okay if they've got a problem they can complain to the law society, even for me it takes off that burden of having to worry about frivolous complaints or people trying to shoot me down on the internet," said Fechney.
As for Halse, he is concerned regulating employment advocates will align them with the legal profession, ultimately costing clients more in fees.