Cafe chef awarded $50,000 for unfair dismissal

21 Jul

A former chef at an Auckland cafe has been awarded more than $50,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for unjustified dismissal.

The Employment Relations Authority was told by Lin Zhang that she had been employed by Tan Pacific at its cafe business in Auckland after travelling to New Zealand on a student visa.

Tan Pacific failed to show up for any hearings or respond to allegations throughout the authority’s investigation.

Ms Zhang told the ERA as evidence that her student visa was set to expire when she saw a job for a full time chef at BB’s Cafe advertised.

Ms Zhang said during the course of the interview she told her employer William Tan her visa was about to expire.

She said Mr Tan told her he would offer her the job and help with her visa application if she paid him $23,000 as a bond, to ensure she would remain working for him for two years.

Ms Zhang told the authority she later made these payments.

In her evidence Ms Zhang said during her employment she worked a weekly roster, but the variation of hours and days was dramatic.

Ms Zhang also said she was never paid to the terms of her employment agreement, and she said sometimes she would not be paid for months at a time.

Toward the end of her employment Ms Zhang saw a doctor, and was given a medical certificate. However, Mr Tan insisted she come to work.

Her last day at work with Tan Pacific was on October 6 2013.

In October 2013 Ms Zhang’s lawyer raised a personal grievance with Tan Pacific and demanded payment of wages owing, but there was no reply from Tan Pacific.

Authority member James Crichton found that Ms Zhang was unjustifiably dismissed, given she was expected to show up and work even though she had a medical certificate excusing her from work.

“Tan Pacific’s behaviour was so outrageous as to effectively create a breach or breaches of the employment agreement of sufficient seriousness to entitle Ms Zhang to repudiate the agreement and resign her employment.

“I have no hesitation in concluding that Ms Zhang was unjustifiably constructively dismissed from her employment.

“Ms Zhang was treated disgracefully by Tan Pacific throughout the employment an on her evidence was simply taken advantage of.”

Mr Crichton awarded Ms Zhang $21,880 in wages, $2793 in holiday pay, and $487 in sick pay.

He also ordered Tan Pacific to pay Ms Zhang $8500 as compensation for hurt, humiliation and loss of dignity and that Ms Zhang be repaid the $23,000.

Comment was being sought from Tan Pacific.


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