Cases of interest: February 2019

A summary of interesting or topical employment cases.

Labour Inspector v Daleson Investment Limited [2019] NZEmpC 12

Employment Court – Setting penalty amount – Inadequate reasons for Employment Relations Authority decision

The employer underpaid employees in breach of the Minimum Wage Act 1983 and the Holidays Act 2003, and failed to provide written employment agreements in breach of the Employment Relations Act 2000. The employer repaid the sums owing. The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) awarded $220 in penalties. The ERA’s discussion when determining the penalty amount was very brief. The Labour Inspectorate challenged the ERA’s decision. It claimed that penalty was inadequate, the ERA had erred in its approach to penalties and the ERA failed to sufficiently state its findings.

The Employment Court held that the ERA made various errors of fact and law in setting the penalty amount (see paras 22-48). The Court held that the Authority could not be criticised for omitting a detailed analysis of the Preet approach to penalties and that this approach does not need to be applied to every case, particularly where the case is not complex (see para 53). However, the ERA had not given adequate reasons for its decision. The brevity and contents of the ERA determination casted significant doubt on the rationale for the result and consequently breached s174E of the Employment Relations Act 2000.

The Court uplifted the penalty award to $40,000.

Link to case [PDF 376 KB] (external link)

Moody v Chamberlain [2019] NZEmpC 16

Employment Court – Appointment of litigation guardian – Meaning of incapacity for Employment Court purposes

At issue was whether and how litigation guardians could be appointed for two disabled adult parties in the Employment Court.

The Court noted that there was no precedent or any express power under its own legislation for the Employment Court to appoint a litigation guardian. However, the Employment Court Regulations 2000 stipulate that where no procedure has been provided for, the Court must apply the High Court Rules 2016 (HCR). Therefore, r 4.30 of the HCR applied as it governed the appointment of litigation guardians (see paras 4-5).

A litigation guardian will be appointed where mental incapacity prevents a person from conducting litigation. The starting point is a presumption of competence (see para 6). The Court adopted the definition of incapacity from r 4.29 of the HCR (see para 8).

On the facts, the Court was satisfied that one of the parties was incapacitated and a litigation guardian was appointed. However, there was not enough evidence to show that the other party was incapacitated. The Court granted leave for an affidavit to be filed which showed the other party was also incapacitated (see para 9-15).

The Court held it was not necessary to impose conditions on the litigation guardian (see para 17).

Link to case [PDF 256 KB] (external link)

Page last revised: 15 March 2019

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