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Cafe worker wins $9000 for unpaid 8-hour shift

(Image: Getty)
(Image: Getty)

New Zealand authorities have awarded a woman $9,000 after a cafe declined to pay her after her first shift.

After responding to a job ad and going through an interview, Helen Mawhinney worked a full shift at Wadestown Kitchen in northern Wellington from 8am to 4pm on August 4, 2017.

When that first shift was over, Mawhinney asked co-owner Kathy Parfitt whether the cafe needed her bank details to pay the wage into.

According to evidence heard by the Employment Relations Authority, Parfitt then replied: “Oh, did [co-owner] Curtis not tell you? This was an unpaid trial.”

Mawhinney was “upset” by the response and told Parfitt that she had spent childcare and travel costs on that day to work for the cafe, and that she didn’t agree that she should not be paid.

She later received a text message reiterating that the day was an unpaid trial but with an offer of ongoing employment. Mawhinney declined the offer and asked to be paid for a shift that she thought was not indicated in advance as unpaid.

“I am sorry but we don’t pay for trial days… On a trial day you are not a productive member of the team and you can leave whenever you like,” replied co-owner Curtis Gregorash, while also formally withdrawing the job offer.

“It is not a day of work. You are also not considered to be an employee before we ask you to be one.”

The Employment Relations Authority member Michele Ryan sided with Mawhinney, concluding that the cafe did not have in writing nor make it absolutely clear before the work that the shift would be an unpaid “competency assessment”.

The job seeker was awarded $7,000 in compensation, $119.07 for the missing wages, and $1,890 for four weeks’ notice.

Ryan said Mawhinney’s correspondence with the cafe showed her distress at not being paid for the shift.

“She remained emotional about the event when giving evidence before the Authority. I conclude it is appropriate to award $7,000 in compensation.”

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