A chef unjustifiably dismissed from a vegan food firm has won a $25,000 payout in an employment case.

Angus McLean got a job last year as head chef for Pretty Damn Good For You, which was owned and managed by businesswoman Angela Merrie.

Merrie initially undertook cookery demonstrations and gave talks but later developed a new online food service offering mainly vegan products.

In June 2016, McLean requested unpaid leave to return to the United Kingdom to visit family in September of that year.


Also that June, Merrie found out that a funding deal for her company had been delayed.

The business then ran out of money and she transferred personal funds to pay employees.

That August she was unable to sustain salary payments and just before he was due to leave for the UK, Merrie told McLean that the company was closing.

He received a redundancy letter the following month and while on his trip to the UK was told that a week of work he was due to finish upon his return had been cancelled.

Merrie told McLean she hoped to pay him four weeks' redundancy.

McLean this month took a case to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed in the redundancy and that his former workplace had breached its employment agreement.

Authority member Eleanor Robinson found that Pretty Damn Good For You had failed to follow a fair procedure and that McLean had not been given the opportunity to comment on the process taken.

Robinson determined that McLean had been unfairly dismissed.


For a big chunk of his employment, Robinson said Pretty Damn Good For You had not been in a financial position to pay McLean's salary.

"Ms Merrie...did not disclose this to Mr McLean which I find to have been a breach of the good faith duty owed to an employee by an employer," Robinson said.

Robinson said that the company did not pay McLean money due to him in August and September 2016 or his accrued holiday pay.

The ERA member said that Merrie had been aware that during June to August 2016 the company could not meet its salary obligations "and had actively acted to conceal this situation from him in breach of good faith".

"I determine that Ms Merrie aided and abetted PDGFY to breach the employment obligations it owed to Mr McLean," Robinson said.

The company was ordered to pay McLean in $1154 in unpaid wages and $2308 in holiday pay.

It was also ordered to pay him $9232 in lost wages and $7500 in compensation for hurt and humiliation.

McClean also sought a penalty from Merrie.

"Ms Merrie was aware from June 2016 that the expected funding for PDGFY had not materialised and concealed the precarious financial condition of PDGFY from Mr McLean by transferring funds from her personal account for his salary payments to PDGFY," Robinson said.

"This action on Ms Merrie's part had the effect of disguising the true financial situation from Mr McLean, which had he been aware of might have prevented his committing to the purchase of air tickets to the UK, and remaining in New Zealand to look for alternative employment. I find that Ms Merrie aided and abetted PDGFY to breach the Employment Agreement with Mr McLean. Further I find that in this case, the breaches committed by Ms Merrie were done so knowingly and intentional ...I order Ms Merrie to pay $7000 as a penalty," Robinson said.

McLean was awarded $5000 of the $7000 penalty.