Christchurch restaurateurs penalised $120,000 after failure to repay workers

The Employment Relations Authority has ordered the Noori family and their business, Indian Heaven Ltd, to pay $118,799 in penalties for employment law breaches.

Earlier this year, husband and wife Sayed and Najima Noori and their daughter Fatima Noori were ordered to pay $41,688 in minimum wage and holiday pay arrears to seven former employees of two Christchurch restaurants they operated. This amount is still outstanding and owed in addition to the penalties.

The Noori family had sold the Indian Heaven restaurants and set up a new takeaway business venture, Noori’s NZ Ltd. It is trading as Kabul Kebab and Souvlaki on Selwyn Street, Christchurch. Fatima Noori is listed as the director.

“Employers cannot avoid their legal obligations by selling their business,” says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Jeanie Borsboom.

“Employment law allows Inspectors to pursue employers personally for penalties and money owed to workers, even if their business no longer exists.”

The Nooris are personally liable for $47,199 of the penalties and all of the arrears.

“This determination also sends a strong message that if employers continue to ignore their obligations, including not paying determined wage arrears, they risk significantly higher penalties – in this case nearly three times higher than the arrears owed to the exploited workers.”

With the increasing level of penalties and orders for payment of significant arrears to workers, the Labour Inspectorate now uses a dedicated unit to systematically pursue recovery of these monies.

“Consumers also have a role to play in upholding employment standards by voting with their feet. They should consider how businesses treat their employees and meet their obligations before buying from them,” says Ms Borsboom.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) encourages anyone concerned about the employment situation of themselves or someone they know to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

Exploitation – of any form – is never acceptable, regardless of the reason. It is against the law. Good employers should not be under-cut by those who exploit workers, and exploited workers should feel safe to report exploitation and have confidence that appropriate action will be taken. 

The government is taking action to address the exploitation of temporary migrant workers in New Zealand, and wants feedback on a number of proposals. The closing date for feedback on the proposals is 5pm, 27 November.

Temporary migrant worker exploitation review — MBIE website (external link)