Restaurant denies bias, says it's aiming for gender balance.

A branch of one of Auckland's largest Indian restaurant chains has been seeking part-time wait staff - but said only "girls" could apply.

Masala in Stanmore Bay was forced to remove the ad following complaints it was discriminatory.

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The Masala chain has already been the subject of a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation for allegedly paying staff $4 an hour. The company has denied this and has blamed rival restaurants for the complaints.

The restaurant wants the 'girls' to work Monday to Wednesday, when it has $10 specials. Photo / Richard Robinson
The restaurant wants the 'girls' to work Monday to Wednesday, when it has $10 specials. Photo / Richard Robinson

Legal experts say the Stanmore Bay restaurant's advertisement - affixed to the main door - appeared to be in breach of the Human Rights Act. "We are looking for part time front staff (girls only)," it said.

The manager, Jagjit Singh, said last night: "We didn't think it was anything wrong to be specific about what we want to hire.

"We wanted girls because we think girls [as front staff] make better sales people, and in customer relations."

Their duties would include making coffee and waitressing Monday to Wednesday nights, when Masala serves $10 mains.

Mr Singh denied the restaurant - which has five male employees - was being discriminatory. The roles were to replace three female staff who had resigned.

"If we are discriminating, then why would we have five male staff? We just want to have equal numbers of male and female."

Mr Singh said five applications, all from females, had been received, but no one had yet been hired.

Employment law specialist Claire English said that under the Human Rights Act, it was illegal for an employer to discriminate against staff or applicants on the grounds of gender.

"There are limited exceptions in the act when it comes to certain types of roles, but you and I know that both women and men can be just as confident to be working as frontline wait staff," said the senior associate with law firm Chen Palmer.

An example of an exception was in "personal and intimate roles" in the healthcare field.

Last year, the ministry was investigating the Masala chain after some workers alleged they were being paid $4 an hour, were not paid their leave entitlements and had money deducted from their wages for company-provided accommodation that was overcrowded.

They complained they were left with as little as $265 for working up to 70 hours a week.

The matter was taken to the Employment Relations Authority after Masala failed to provide records for more than 100 staff by the deadline it was given.

However, Masala maintained it had never broken the law and said rival restaurant owners had orchestrated the complaints.

The Masala chain has restaurants in several prime Auckland suburbs, including Mission Bay, Mt Eden, Takapuna, Titirangi and Browns Bay.