A couple has been awarded nearly $83,000 after the wife was found to have been sacked for wanting a baby.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found that Ibrahim Kocaturk and Guler Kocaturk were also significantly underpaid for the work they did for Zara's Turkish Limited, a Turkish restaurant with branches in Nelson and Upper Hutt.

Despite the denial of company's directors Ugur and Hanife Kokcu, ERA member David Appleton determined that Guler Kocaturk was unjustifiably dismissed because she had indicated she wanted to have a baby.

Ibrahim Kocaturk was offered continued work at Zara's but declined, telling the ERA it was "not logical" for him to work there without his wife. He was not found to have been unjustifiably dismissed.


"To dismiss a woman because she has declared an intention to have a baby is an act of indirect discrimination by reason of sex," Appleton said in his decision.

"To dismiss a woman for intimating an intention to try to become pregnant must render that dismissal substantively unjustified, as no fair and reasonable employer could have done that in all the circumstances."

Appleton raised further concerns about the number of cases brought to the ERA's attention of migrant workers who speak poor or no English and are underpaid.

"The majority often do not complain during their employment because they realise the vulnerable position they are in, dependent as they are on their employment to remain in New Zealand. They also often do not realise that they have rights to minimum employment standards," the decision said.

The aggrieved couple claimed that during the first five months of his employment with Zara's, Ibrahim Kocaturk worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week without a break and was paid just $200. That later increased to $570 for a 72-hour week.

The company directors denied that, presenting the ERA with a time, pay and wages book showing he had worked 40 hours a week.

This book was shown to forensic document and handwriting expert Linda Morrell who concluded: "The 16 questioned signatures are probably attempted copies or simulations by another writer/s".

Zara's directors denied forgery but the ERA preferred the complainants' evidence.

However, this did not amount to a conclusion that the Kokcus had forged the signatures, the decision said.

Guler Kocaturk was awarded $61,800 for unpaid wages, unpaid holiday pay and unjustified dismissal.

Ibrahim Kocaturk was awarded $21,000 for unpaid wages and holiday pay.