A Hamilton-based car company could face severe penalties should it fail to pay $16,500 to a woman who entered into a sham marriage in order to obtain work and a visa.
Director Auto Importers (NZ) Limited (DAIL) was last September ordered to pay nearly $18,000 in unpaid wages, holiday pay and unpaid commission to the woman, Sukhpreet Kaur, by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).
In that decision, the authority heard that Kaur asked a man she was boarding with, Harjinder Singh, to help her secure permanent residency in New Zealand.
He said he'd get her a job offer with one of DAIL's dealerships, Super Cheap Vehicles Limited, if she paid $18,000 - a sum she could not afford.
"Then Harjinder offered me that if I can't pay the whole amount, he has his brother-in-law in Hastings named Dilbag who can contribute half of that amount ... after our marriage which would be only on papers and not a real one," Kaur told the ERA.
"He said that if we arrange $18,000, he will get a job offer from some of his contacts and he will get my work visa and then permanent residency of both his guy and myself."
She met her husband-to-be on only a few occasions in 2013 and they were married within a few months.
"I gave Harjinder Singh $10,000 in July 2013. I am not aware whether Dilbag gave $8000 to Harjinder Singh or not," Kaur said.
After the marriage, she and Dilbag lived together for just five days or so before they started living separately.
Nonetheless, she was offered work at Super Cheap Vehicles in Auckland as assistant manager.
"Ms Kaur acknowledged that although she signed this agreement, she did so in the knowledge that there was no actual job but the signed agreement would be used to support her in obtaining a work permit," the ERA's decision said.
Authority member Vicki Campbell expressed concern about Harjinder Singh's conduct and possible breaches of New Zealand employment law.
A copy of the determination would be provided to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and to Immigration New Zealand.
Despite not being the assistant manager, the ERA established that Kaur did work for DAIL as a customer service representative for which she was owed wages, holiday pay and commission for cars she had sold.
Further allegations against the company of gender-based discrimination, harassment, being blamed for others' mistakes and other disadvantage were dismissed by the ERA.
According to a subsequent decision, released today, the parties reached a binding settlement agreement in March this year in which DAIL was to pay Kaur $16,500.00.
"I am satisfied that DAIL has not complied with the terms of the settlement," the latest decision said.
DAIL's sole director and shareholder, Vishal Kumar Sharma, submitted that the company was under financial pressure as a result of proceedings taken against it by the Labour Inspector. No supporting financial information was provided to the ERA.
It ordered DAIL deposit $16,500 into Kaur's bank account within 21 days of the determination, which was delivered on August 24.
Should the company fail to comply, Kaur could take the matter to the Employment Court, which could impose a sentence of up to three months imprisonment or a fine of up to $40,000.
Sharma told the ERA that DAIL's financial situation was being considered by its accountants and that it may be able to pay the amount in instalments.
Sharma has been sought for comment.