10 Mar 2017

Food company fined a further $11k over immigrant's wages

6:27 pm on 10 March 2017

A food company fined last year for overworking an immigrant employee has until next Friday to pay a further $11,000 for not complying with the Employment Relations Authority's order.

In a rare decision, the Employment Court has awarded more than half of that non-compliance fine to the plaintiff, Josue Domingo.

In May last year the authority ordered Town and Country Food to pay Mr Domingo $8000 in unpaid wages, as well as a penalty.

The employer took no steps to challenge the ruling or pay the worker, which led Mr Domingo to appeal to the Employment Court to take action.

The company tried to argue what it was asked to pay Mr Domingo should have been deducted from what he owed them for room and board.

But the court found that could not excuse the employer for not complying with its order under the Wages Protection Act.

Judge Christina Inglis found the company's refusal to pay what it owed Mr Domingo "has been particularly acute".

She said he was in a vulnerable position as a migrant worker, isolated from support networks with English as a second language, and with a limited understanding of the relevant legal frameworks.

"He has found the situation very stressful, confusing and uncertain," she stated.

"Because the defendant failed to pay the plaintiff his wage and holiday entitlements, Mr Domingo was unable to fund a trip back to the Philippines to see his children, including a daughter he has not seen for almost three years."

Judge Inglis said this sort of case was all too common in New Zealand.

"The position Mr Domingo has found himself in is not unique.

"It is clear that it has taken a degree of personal endurance to pursue matters to this point.

"Mr Domingo said that he had felt like 'giving up' in terms of seeking compliance with the authority's awards. These are observations which the Employment Court frequently hears in cases such as this."

Mr Domingo would receive $6600 of the non-compliance fine, while the rest would go to the Crown.

The company needed to pay what it owed Mr Domingo within 10 working days of Tuesday's decision.