$9,000 for one day of work

A Wellington café worker has won a $9,000 payout for a single day of work after she worked a full shift, only for the owner to tell her afterwards that it was an unpaid trial.

Helen Mawhinney worked for eight hours at Wadestown Kitchen, owned by Sfizio Limited, in August 2017. Upon finishing the shift she approached co-director Kathy Parfitt to discuss payment methods. According to Mawhinney, Parfitt said “Oh, did Curtis not tell you? This was an unpaid trial.”

In a text later that night, Parfitt apologised for any confusion caused and ended by offering Mawhinney the job. Mawhinney declined, and told Parfitt that she had until the end of the week to pay her before she would begin proceedings with the Employment Relations Authority, arguing that it counted as constructive dismissal. In response, Sfizio co-director Curtis Gregorash rescinded the job offer and argued that Mawhinney was “not a productive member of the team” and had been able to leave whenever she liked.

In submitting evidence to the Employment Relations Authority, Mawhinney said that in the initial interview, Parfitt has said that she was “exactly what we are looking for” and that she could be given “30 hours per week but the work might be stretched between the two cafes.” Mawhinney interpreted this as a job offer.

In the ERA’s determination, Michelle Ryan said that the circumstances of the August 4 trial were not correctly conveyed to Mawhinney, and that the line between competency assessment and engaging in work had been crossed. The ERA ruled that the actions of Sfizio amounted to constructive dismissal.

Mawhinney was awarded $7,000 compensation, $1890 for four weeks’ notice and $119.07 for the day of work.