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Nelson Restaurant Paying Less Than Minimum Wage Ordered To Repay Employees

A Nelson restaurant and the company which owns it will have to pay three employees more than $30,000 in back wages and interest for having breached several minimum employment standards between 2014 – 2018.

The company, Mirac Limited, trading as Zaras Turkish Kebabs and Cafe, owned and operated by Omer Akbaba, was ordered by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to pay $30,886.44 in wage arrears, holiday pay and interest to three employees.

Omer Akbaba is one of two company directors and shareholders of the business.

The ERA found Mr Akbaba, acting as owner/operator, had the three employees work the “middle-shift”, in-between the busy lunch and dinner services, but did not pay them for these hours worked. Mr Akbaba completed his employee’s timesheets on their behalf, indicating they had worked the lunch and dinner shift but neglected to include the middle-shift where the employees spent time preparing meats, salads and sauces so as to be ready for the dinner service.

This meant that, through the course of their time working for the business, they were not paid for a number of hours each day, and therefore did not receive the wages they were owed or their associated holiday pay.

ERA member Michael Loftus ordered Mirac Limited to pay $30,886.44 in wage arrears and interest.

Additionally, Mirac Limited must pay $18,000 in penalties for breaching the Holidays Act, for failing to pay the minimum wage and for failing to maintain proper wages and time records.

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In his role as the owner/operator, Omer Akbaba must also pay a penalty of $9,000, a total of $27,000 in penalties owing.

Mr Loftus said it had been noted that the employees were migrant workers. “They are inherently vulnerable, particularly because they were unfamiliar with New Zealand laws and regulations.”

Simon Humphries, Head of Labour Inspectorate, said the penalties and arrears ordered against Mirac Limited and Omer Akbaba should serve as a warning to anyone who might consider short-changing or exploiting their workers.

“Thanks to the commendable actions of the three employees, the Labour Inspectorate was able to investigate and hold to account employers who set out to deceive and benefit from the exploitation of their workers. Omer Akbaba was ripping them off and gained from their free labour.”

“This company and its owners showed a blatant disregard for their obligations as employers and, as a result, must now pay the consequences. Hopefully this brings some justice to those employees who had been underpaid over several years.”

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