The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered three owner-operators of Auckland Indian clothing retailers Khoobsurat Collections/Naari Collections Ltd to pay $60,000 for intimidating two of their previous employees. Both ex-employees were serving as witnesses in a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Labour Inspectorate investigation.
Directors Neelam Ahuja, Chirag Ahuja, and officer Rhythm Ahuja have been ordered to personally pay penalties of $20,000 each, totalling $60,000.
This decision was made separate to a previous ERA determination that the directors be personally liable for $68,783 in unpaid wages and holiday pay owed by their companies Khoobsurat Collections Ltd/Naari Collection Ltd.
Both decisions were ordered prior to the end of 2016 after the Indian retail clothing stores went into liquidation.
The two ex-employees claimed they were subject to threats by unknown men in connection with their appearances as witnesses in the ERA investigation. Both employees were placed under pressure to forgo giving evidence. The ERA found that Neelam, Chirag and Rhythm Ahuja were ultimately responsible for the threats and for attempting to obstruct case proceedings.
"This decision relates to an action brought by the Authority on its own motion and also sends a strong message the Labour Inspectorate will not tolerate intimidation," says Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager Loua Ward.
"Safety is paramount and witnesses need to feel confident in coming forward so that the Labour Inspectorate can take action against unscrupulous employers who continue to take advantage of workers.
"It is in the public interest to impose penalties that not only punish employers who attempt to obstruct judicial processes, but also act as a deterrent to others who may contemplate engaging in such abhorrent behaviour."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment encourages anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.
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