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last updated 09/02/2023

Former liquor store employees to be paid outstanding $260,000

last updated 09/02/2023

8 February 2023 – Five former employees of a Bottle-O franchisee will receive over a quarter of a million dollars in back pay after an Employment Court ruling. The owner has also been banned from employing anyone for 12 months 

Five former employees of Auckland-based liquor stores are in the process of getting paid a total of $259,685 arrears after the Employment Court found their former employers guilty of violating minimum pay and holiday rules.

Judge Kathryn Beck ruled that the owners of the Nikhil Himalaya Group of companies, Ravinder Kumar Arora and his wife Anuradha Arora, were liable to pay arrears to the former employees for failing to pay minimum entitlements. The Group operated stores under the Bottle-O franchise brand.

‘It’s a great outcome for the former employees, especially during these difficult times. This is money that they are rightfully owed and will be receiving it promptly - within a few weeks of the decision,’ said Stu Lumsden, Head of Compliance & Enforcement, Labour Inspectorate.

‘These cases can often drag on for months or even years. The Labour Inspectorate adopted a customer-centric approach, choosing the right intervention for the circumstance and working to fully leverage our tools, powers and people to get the best outcomes for the five former employees. That was to get the money that is owed to them in a timely manner.

‘While the case was scheduled for May 2023, the ruling came after the parties filed a joint memorandum and agreed a statement of facts following our legal team proactively reaching out to the defendants,’ says Lumsden.

The Nikhil Himalaya Group, and owners, Ravinder and Anuradha Arora accepted the breaches in minimum employment entitlements, arrears and for failing to keep records.

‘The absence of records made it somewhat difficult to verify evidence in this case. So we relied on technology to verify the evidence provided by the former employees,’ says Lumsden.

‘Personal cell site data was used as evidence to quantify and prove the arrears of two complainants in the absence of any employer records. More sophisticated data analysis will be a tactic used in Labour Inspectorate investigations ongoing, to help provide evidence in the cases where records are unavailable. ‘

A banning order against owner Ravinder Arora has been issued for 12 months from 27 February 2023, meaning he will not be able to employ or be involved in employing anyone.

Cheating owners damage innocent franchises

When the story first broke in August 2020, Stuff ran an article on Ravinder Kumar Arora under the headline, ‘Is this NZ’s worst employer?’ As this article notes, many franchisors have taken steps to ensure that their franchisees are obeying the law or have their franchises terminated, including working with the Labour Inspectorate and immigrant groups.

The actions of a few rogue franchisees such as this have also cost other franchisees dearly, with the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme introduced last year costing franchisees of any brand more than five times as much as independent business owners. MBIE told Franchise New Zealand that a review of the scheme was expected in 2023, after the scheme has been operating for a year.

The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation or the situation of someone they know, to phone the Ministry’s service centre on 0800 20 90 20 where concerns are handled in a safe environment.

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