Auckland pizza business owes $100k to migrant worker

Published 24 October 2023 | 3 min read

Auckland manager faces jail time for non-compliance with ERA

In an alarming case of non-compliance with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), a former Auckland manager is facing the possibility of jail time. Devinder Mann, the ex-boss of a pizza-making business in Auckland, refused to pay nearly $100,000 owed to his exploited migrant worker, Deepak Dhiman. Despite being ordered by the ERA to make the payments, Mann has steadfastly resisted, leading to potential legal consequences, including imprisonment.

What actions agitated the situation, intensifying the tension?

Deepak Dhiman's ordeal began when he arrived in New Zealand in 2012, filled with hope for a better life. Little did he know, his dream would turn into a nightmare. Exploited for eight long years by Devinder Mann's pizza business, Dhiman toiled without proper compensation. He worked overtime without fair pay, and even his regular hours saw him receiving less than the minimum wage. Mann had promised Dhiman help with obtaining permanent residency in New Zealand, which further trapped him in this exploitative situation.

Employee vs. Employer battle

After years of enduring this unjust treatment, Dhiman finally sought assistance from migrant rights advocate Sunny Sehgal. Together, they embarked on the quest to recover Dhiman's unpaid wages and holiday pay. The ERA found in favour of Dhiman, ordering Mann to pay him nearly $100,000. Mann, however, has consistently refused to comply with this order. His defiance has escalated the situation, prompting the question: Can an employer truly be imprisoned for non-compliance with a Compliance Order?

Mann's refusal to pay the rightfully owed amount has resulted in escalating consequences. First, he was fined $10,000 by the Employment Court, with a portion designated for Dhiman and the Crown. Yet, this fine went unpaid. Now, as the legal battle continues, the possibility of imprisonment looms large. While imprisonment for non-compliance with a Compliance Order is a rare outcome, it may well be warranted in Mann's case due to his continued failure to meet his financial obligations.

How can you avoid similar non-compliance issues?

The case of Deepak Dhiman and his former employer Devinder Mann serves as a good reminder for managers in New Zealand. It highlights the importance of adhering to Employment Relations Authority orders and treating employees fairly and ethically.

Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett underscores the rising trend of non-compliance among employers, especially those who employ vulnerable workers. The consequences for flouting compliance orders can be severe, including property seizure and imprisonment.

As employers, it is crucial to prioritize compliance with labour laws and the fair treatment of employees. Recognizing the importance of paying owed wages and respecting the decisions of labour authorities is not just a legal obligation but a moral one.

While imprisonment for non-compliance is an option available to the courts, it remains a last resort. Employers should aim to avoid such dire consequences by treating their workers fairly and upholding their legal responsibilities.

The case of Devinder Mann and Deepak Dhiman is a testament to the importance of abiding by the law, valuing employees' rights, and taking non-compliance seriously. In a country like New Zealand, where labour rights are highly regarded, this case stands as a reminder that justice will prevail, even if it means sending a non-compliant employer to jail.

This is a lesson in the value of compliance and the cost of non-compliance. Treat your employees with respect, pay them fairly, and adhere to the rulings of labour authorities. By doing so, you'll not only avoid legal troubles but also build a positive and ethical workplace culture, which is a win for everyone involved.

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Exploited pizza shop worker wants former employer put in jail. (2023, October 20). RNZ.

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