A woman worked at a cafe in Carterton for four months, but was only paid $92 for her 275 hours of work.

Nicole Crabtree began working at Graham Murrell's Surf N' Turf Cafe & Takeaways on April 16 2015 and was dismissed from her position four months later on August 12.

She sought arrears of wages from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), saying she wasn't paid throughout her employment, except for a cash payment of $92 on the day she was dismissed.

Murrell did not participate in the ERA hearing, but told a prior investigation that Crabtree had never been a employee. The cafe has since closed.


The ERA queried whether Murrell had believed Crabtree was working as a volunteer.

Evidence of text messages between Murrell's daughter and Crabtree referred to an employment contract and wages that were being prepared for Crabtree.

Crabtree told the ERA she understood her wages might be paid two or three weeks late initially as her employer had incurred set up costs which made finances an issue for the cafe.

She was prepared to be patient because she considered Murrell's daughter a friend and she was told on numerous occasions that her wages would be ready the next week but there was always an excuse for them not being available.

The ERA was satisfied Crabtree had been an employee of the cafe and not a volunteer from April 16 to August 12 2015.

The ERA was provided written evidence of the hours Crabtree had worked and awarded her $4,174.25 in outstanding wages, $333.94 holiday pay and ordered the cafe to pay her hearing costs of $71.56.

Read the full decision here: