Big payout: Tauranga business ordered to pay thousands of dollars to man who worked up to 80 hours a week

A Tauranga superette has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars to an ex-employee for breaching minimum wage and holiday pay requirements.

Hardik Maradiya worked long hours as a retail assistant in Tauranga, run by Shah Enterprise, with many of the hours worked going unpaid, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said in its determination.

Maradiya worked for the business for about nine months in 2018 and was paid $15.75 an hour.

He complained to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about his working conditions via the call centre in January 2019.

MBIE Labour Inspector George Shorrock then launched an investigation.

In a record of the complaint, provided in the ERA determination, Maradiya alleged that he worked 70-80 hours a week, was asked by his employer to pay back tax that he was told was owed and wasn’t given proper breaks.

He told Shorrock that between May and November 2018 he worked more than 12 hours a day seven days a week but was only paid for 20 hours.

Shorrock agreed with Maradiya, stating it was “more likely than not” that he did indeed work these hours, and used transaction receipts signed by Maradiya to determine the hours.

However, ERA member of authority Anna Fitzgibbon said she believed Maradiya worked even longer hours than what was determined by the inspector.

When he asked his boss, Sapan Jagdishbhai Shah, why he was not being paid for all the hours he worked, Shah told him that if he wanted to be paid, he’d need to repay the business the tax it had paid on his behalf, the determination said.

Neither Maradiya nor the business kept a record of the hours he worked.

During the investigation, Shah told the inspector his business was a “small family business” which is why the records weren’t kept.

Maradiya is a migrant worker and told the inspector that he could only legally work 20 hours a week due to being on a student visa.

He said he had signed an employment agreement but wasn’t given a copy of it.

He stayed with his boss during his employment, and was not charged rent, but was expected to cook meals, he said.

The labour inspector’s investigation found that Maradiya was paid $12,150 between March to November 2018 but should’ve earned more than double that – $27,998.25.

A deduction of 15 per cent was made to account for the cost of boarding, and after deducting the $12,150 he was paid, the ERA determined $11,648.51 was still owed and ordered the business to pay the sum within 28 days.

Maradiya also said he was not being paid holiday pay during the period of employment, which amounted to $2,239.86 in arrears, which the ERA also ordered the business to pay.

The determination said the situation caused difficulty for Maradiya regarding his immigration status, his personal life and employment opportunities.

“However, Shah Enterprise has reduced its costs, and gained an unfair advantage over its competitors.

“Shah Enterprise gained financially by retaining use of moneys owed to the employee.

“Through these practices Shah Enterprise was able to reduce its expenses and therefore increase its profit.”

On top of money the business needs to pay in arrears, both Shah Enterprise and business owner Shah himself have been fined.

The business must pay $32,000 and Shah has been ordered to pay $16,000 in penalties to the ERA, 30 per cent of which is to be paid to Maradiya.

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