The former owner of Christchurch bar and eatery, Watershed Bar and Restaurant, and restaurant, Sequoia 88, has been banned from hiring staff for three years after he was found to have intentionally and persistently breached employment law.

Gordon Freeman, the sole director and shareholder of Victoria 88 Limited, was banned from hiring, being involved in hiring employees, or being an officer of an employer, following an application by the Labour Inspectorate to the Employment Court.

“This case demonstrates the Inspectorate’s commitment to having employers removed from the labour market who seriously fail to meet their obligations, and are unfit to be employers,” said Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden. “Mr Freeman cynically abused the trust placed in employers, and disregarded the basic rules put in place to ensure everyone in the workplace is getting a fair deal. This ban should serve as a clear warning to any other employers who aren’t taking their obligations seriously.”

The decision came after Freeman, despite being fined by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) previously, continued to include an illegal clause in his employment agreements stating that staff would forfeit their holiday pay if less than six weeks’ notice was given when resigning.

“This is the first time a banning order has ever been imposed by the Employment Court, a sanction introduced in 2016 to strengthen the enforcement of minimum employment standards. We will not hesitate to seek further bans on employers where we encounter such poor practices.”

In addition to the banning order, the Employment Court ordered Freeman and his businesses to pay $20,000 in penalties, of which $7,845 is to be paid to 23 affected employees. Half of those penalties, including the arrears, are to be paid by Freeman personally.

A person who breaches a banning order is liable on conviction by the District Court or the High Court to a fine up to $200,000, a term of imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

Anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the situation of someone they know, should call 0800 20 90 20 where they can report their concerns in a safe environment.