Former university lecturer order to pay student $30,000 for year's work

Student engaged as subcontractor – but only paid $9,000

Former university lecturer order to pay student $30,000 for year's work

A former master's student who was paid just $9,000 for a year’s worth of full-time work has won a tribunal order for her ex-manager and mentor to compensate her with $30,000.

The Disputes Tribunal ruling, issued last week, details how the student, initially employed as a part-time researcher at a university, was later short-changed by her former manager after transitioning to a full-time role, according to the New Zealand Herald.

In February 2022, the student submitted her master’s thesis and continued to work under the guidance of her manager, who then left the university to establish her own organization. Offering the student a full-time position, the manager, a well-respected professional in their field, engaged the student as a subcontractor in March 2022.

Financial compensation delayed

The student, honored to receive the offer, worked primarily from home, choosing her own hours and days off, according to the New Zealand Herald. However, financial compensation for her efforts was delayed.

She did not issue a $2,600 invoice for her work until July 2022, with her boss continually promising eventual payment. Despite these assurances, the student only received $9,000, leaving $41,000 in unpaid invoices.

The tribunal’s compensation cap of $30,000 forced the student to limit her claim, opting for a quicker resolution and confidentiality over pursuing a larger amount through the District Court, said the New Zealand Herald.

The tribunal’s referee, Christchurch-based Krysia Cowie, faced difficulty contacting the student’s former boss, who hung up on her call and ignored further attempts to reach her, resulting in a hearing conducted in the boss's absence.

Student legally an employee

Cowie determined that the student was legally an employee, engaged full-time at a rate of $33 per hour, said the article. Initial invoices were paid, but subsequent payments were ignored.

Emails provided by the student showed her boss acknowledged the debt, promising to pay once she received $100,000.

"I am satisfied that [the lecturer] has not provided a sufficient reason for not paying [the student] on the terms that she agreed to and as a result [the student] has suffered hardship,” Cowie stated.

The tribunal awarded the student the maximum amount of $30,000 plus $1,400 in interest, said the New Zealand Herald.

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