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Family booze chain ordered to pay $87k

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/06/2016

A family-owned south Auckland booze business which paid a worker the equivalent of $4 an hour and other staff under the table now has to fork over nearly $90,000.

The two companies owned by brothers Sanjesh, Abineshwar and Ajineshwar Sharma have come out on the wrong side of an Employment Relations Authority decision after Hardeep Singh, a 19-year-old recent immigrant complained about his pay packets.

ERA member Rachel Larmer has ordered the Sharmas to pay Mr Singh more than $45,000 in unpaid wages and $42,000 in penalties for not following employment laws over contracts, time and wage records - $22,000 of that will go to Mr Singh.

The breaches of the Minimum Wage Act were serious and significant, she said.

In her decision, which refers to staff being paid under the table, Ms Larmer said the Sharmas owned and operated four pubs and two liquor stores in south Auckland.

Mr Singh worked for the brothers between October 2012 and December 2013 but didn't have a written employment contract.

He complained he wasn't paid for his first six weeks' work and then just $300 a week after that.

But the Sharmas shot back, saying Mr Singh was sacked after only a few days at the Manurewa Happy Liquor Store for allegedly drinking on the job and stealing promotional items.

However, when the store was robbed twice in 2013 court documents identified Mr Singh as the victim as he was working as store manager at the time.

After hearing from 16 witnesses and reviewing 1278 pages of documents, Ms Larmer said she believed Mr Singh's account.

She wasn't sure she could be clear who the Sharmas actually employed to work at each location on what days, or even what times each person started or finished work.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment says the level of non-compliance was very disappointing.

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