Restaurant, operator to backpay over $30,000 to 3 underpaid employees

Employer fails to pay staff for 'middle shift' work

Restaurant, operator to backpay over $30,000 to 3 underpaid employees

A Nelson restaurant and its operator have been ordered to backpay more than $30,000 to three employees who were underpaid between 2014 and 2018.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Mirac Limited, and its owner and operator Omer Akbaba to pay the Labour Inspector a total of $30,886.44 in wage arrears, holiday pay, and interest to three employees.

Mirac Limited will pay the sum of $27,707.25, while Akbaba was ordered to pay $3,179.19.

"The Labour Inspector will attend to the distribution of the arrears to those it represented, including deduction and payment of tax, as appropriate," the ERA said in its ruling.

'Middle shift' underpayment

The order came after Akbaba underpaid three migrant workers between 2014 and 2018 by not paying them for working the "middle shift."

As heard by the ERA, Akbaba indicated that the employees worked the lunch and dinner shifts but did not include the in-between period when the migrant workers would prepare meats, salads, and sauces for the dinner service.

"Having weighed and considered the evidence, it leads to a conclusion the middle shift was worked as the employees consistently claimed," the ERA said. "That also means holiday pay is payable on the amounts now owing as a result of the failure to pay the minimum wage and that shall be calculated at an additional eight per cent."

Further penalties imposed

The ERA further penalised Mirac Limited with $18,000 for its violations under the Holidays Act. Akbaba also received a penalty of $9,000 for his role as owner and operator of the business.

Simon Humphries, Head of Labour Inspectorate, said the company and its owner showed a "blatant disregard for their obligations as employers" and must now pay the consequences.

"Hopefully, this brings some justice to those employees who had been underpaid over several years," Humphries said in a statement.

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