July 28, 2021

Heavy penalties imposed on director for exploiting migrant hospitality workers

Ban orders against Amar Deep Singh of Jeet Holdings Ltd

By: Gurbir Singh

The Employment Court has issued Declarations of Breach against three Christchurch hospitality companies, and a banning order against the companies’ director for breaching various sections of employment law in respect of eight employees.

The eight employees were routinely instructed to show in their timesheets less hours worked than they had actually worked. That meant the wage and time records were unreliable because of a premeditated, systematic, method of underpayment over several years.

Jeet Holdings Ltd’s director and shareholder, Amar Deep Singh, has been banned from entering into an employment agreement as an employer, being an officer of an employer or being involved in the hiring or employment of employees for two years.

In a judgement dated 9 June 2021, Jeet Holdings Ltd, Jeet Holdings No.2 (in liquidation) and Jeet Holdings No.6 (in liquidation), previously trading as Coriander’s Ethnic Indian Restaurant, were found to have seriously breached the Minimum Wage Act 1983 (and the Wages Protection Act 1983 in respect of Jeet No.6), between 2007 and 2018, by not paying employees statutory entitlements they were owed and failing to keep accurate time and wage records. 

Jeet Holdings Limited was ordered to pay penalties of $57,600, while penalties of $14,400 and $123,200 were imposed against Jeet Holdings No.2 and Jeet Holdings No.6 Ltd, respectively. Amar Deep Singh was ordered to pay penalties of $112,800. 

Compensation Orders were issued against Jeet Holdings Ltd ($165,042.26), Jeet Holdings No.2 ($30,293) and Jeet Holdings No.6 ($76,492.54), requiring each company to pay these amounts to the employees.

Coriander's restaurant
Coriander’s Restaurants have new owners since Feb 2020 (Photo/FB)

The Court found that Singh acted with callousness and disregard for the welfare of the employees. He instructed them to complete false timesheets and, when detection was likely, came up with a plan to attempt to cover up what was going on and derail the Inspector’s investigation.

Singh left New Zealand in January 2019 and did not return for the Employment Court hearing. He is believed to be running a new business in India.

The Coriander’s restaurants previously run by these companies was sold in early 2020 with new owners continuing with the trading name.

Jeanie Borsboom, Regional Manager Southern, Labour Inspectorate, says the finding serves as a strong deterrent of this completely unacceptable conduct.

“Employment New Zealand provides free education and resources on employment rights, and works with industries and businesses to lift compliance. However, those who deliberately continue to deprive workers of their minimum employment rights, should not be employers.”