Worker owed $83K in wages unlikely to be paid

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An Employment Relations Authority ruling is unlikely to be enough to ensure that Jamal Zaytoun gets the nearly $89,000 he is owed in wages, holiday pay and compensation after the company he worked for has stopped trading.

According to the authority decision, Zaytoun began working for the Wellington computer store BIT Technology on 22 September, 2010.

He claimed that he was not properly paid for his hours and worked for less than minimum wage, which eventually led to him leaving the company.

Zaytoun also claimed that he was constructively dismissed because the end of his employment was foreseeable due to his lack of proper pay and that he was employed by BIT Technology director Mohammad Mustafa Khan personally, rather than by the company.

However, the authority found that Zaytoun was employed by the company for a number of reasons, including an organisational chart supporting the arrangements for the company in which Khan was listed as the business director and Zaytoun was listed as a sales and HR person.

Despite the company denying Zaytoun’s claims, it did not show up to the authority’s investigation meeting.

Authority member Paul Stapp ordered BIT Technology to pay Zaytoun $83,054.75 in owed wages, $921.25 in holiday pay and $5,000 compensation.

However, he did not impose penalties on BIT for breaching the Employment Relations Act and the Minimum Wage Act, as the company was no longer trading.

“It would cause an unacceptable cost for the Crown to chase money that is likely never going to be recovered without its own costs and risks.”

Zaytoun told the Dominion Post that he had met and become friends with Khan and his brother in 2008 after emigrating to New Zealand from Syria.

He said he had worked as a volunteer at the store for six months before Khan offered him a job and he worked for minimal pay for the next few years.

“I was naïve, no doubt, but I always had loyalty to him, being a fellow Muslim, and never thought he would think of me as a slave,” Zaytoun was quoted as saying.

He believed Khan had stopping the company trading in an effort to avoid paying him the money ordered by the ERA.

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