Couple to pay over $94,000 for wage violations

Second time restaurant director penalised for underpayment

Couple to pay over $94,000 for wage violations

A restaurant director and his wife have been penalised by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for failing to properly pay a former chef, according to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The ERA found that BDIT Limited director Shen Yuan and his wife and manager of his restaurant business, Linlin Sun, committed multiple breaches of minimum employment standards against a Chinese chef between September 2019 and September 2020.

ERA member Robin Arthur said the chef, who was visa-dependent, "suffered extended periods where he did not receive the pay that he was entitled to receive." As a result, Yuan has been ordered to pay the chef the following:

  • $43,943 in wages arrears
  • $21,000 as repayment for a premium demanded from him
  • $20,000 in penalties

The ERA also ordered Sun to pay $10,000 in penalties for her role in the breaches, ruling that she was jointly and severely liable for payment of wage arrears.

Overall, the couple must pay $94,943 in wages arrears, premium repayment, and penalties, according to the MBIE.

Repeat offence from Yuan

This is the second time that Yuan and his former restaurant business were sanctioned by the ERA, after it also ordered them to pay a former head chef $11,999.98 for outstanding wages in 2020.

So far, only $4,000 of those have been paid, according to the MBIE, leaving $11,999 outstanding.

Simon Humphries, head of Labour Inspectorate, said Yuan's second appearance at the ERA for similar employment breaches was concerning.

"We would have hoped he had learnt that not complying with minimum employment standards can have serious consequences," Humphries said in a statement.

Migrant worker exploitation

The penalties against the offenders came despite their two restaurants in Auckland stopping trading in October 2019 and September 2020.

But Humphries said employers exploiting vulnerable workers can still be held liable even if the business where the offence happened no longer exists.

"The Labour Inspectorate will vigorously clamp down on those who exploit vulnerable workers, even if they no longer own the business where the exploitation took place," he said.

New Zealand has been working hard to clamp down on migrant work exploitation over the past years. It has been encouraging the public to report to them cases of migrant workers who are being unfairly treated in the workplaces.

In cases where breaches are minimal and unintentional, Humphries said they will work with employers and employees to educate or resolve a complaint.

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