Restaurant Brands Ordered to Pay Out for Unjustifiable Dismissal

The company behind Pizza Hut, KFC, Carls Jr, and Taco Bell has been ordered to pay a former worker $18,000 after it failed to support the man’s work visa application.

Dilshaad Gill was hired on a permanent basis as an assistant restaurant general manager at one of the company’s restaurants in Johnsonville, Wellington in 2017. In 2019, the Employment Relations Authority found Restaurant Brands had unjustifiably dismissed Gill.

In 2017, Restaurant Brands provided Gill with all the documents necessary for him to apply for an employer-assisted work visa, which was issued on March 6, 2017 and had an expiry date of March 7, 2019. In November 2018, Gill emailed Restaurant Brands’ human resource adviser Sarah Douglas asking for documents that would support his application for an essential skills visa.

While Gill assumed this would be a simple administrative process, Douglas replied the same day stating that before Restaurant Brands was able to provide the documents, it would need to go through a recruitment process, starting in late January.

Gill told the authority that it did not occur to him that he would need to reapply for his own job as he was already a permanent employee.

After already requesting documents from Restaurant Brands, Gill was confused when he was sent an email on January 9, 2019 noting that his visa was due to expire on March 7, 2019, and he would need a valid work visa to remain employed.

He emailed Douglas that same day, again asking for those documents so that he could complete his application. Douglas replied saying “No worries – this is a reminder email that we have to send out”. This email put Gill at ease and confirmed his belief that Restaurant Brands was simply following procedure.

Gill said he submitted the job application for his position on January 21, 2019, still believing it was a formality which would assist Restaurant Brands in getting the paperwork ready for his visa application.

Having heard nothing from the company, Gill emailed on February 8, 2019 asking for an update in his applications but only received more radio silence. On February 14, 2019, just three weeks before his visa was set to expire, Gill emailed Douglas again asking for an update. She told him that an area manager would call him that day.

He then received a phone call from his general manager, Matthew Mason, who told him that his application for the position was unsuccessful and that Restaurant Brands could therefore not support his application for a new visa. Gill was also told that his job had been offered to a New Zealand citizen.

Douglas told the authority that the labour market had changed between 2017 and 2019 so that while initially Restaurant Brands had been unable to fill Gill’s position with a New Zealand citizen, that was no longer the case. She said that even if Restaurant Brands had completed the documents for Gill, the application would have been immediately rejected by Immigration New Zealand.

Without discussing the issue with Gill, she decided that she did not want him to waste $495 on an application that might be automatically rejected.

Authority member Geoff O’Sullivan said Restaurant Brands was obligated to let Gill know as early as possible that it was not intending to support his application and the reasons why. The company also made decisions which Gill remained absolutely unaware of, to his detriment.

Finally, Gill’s visa was not due to expire until March 7, 2019, and he had been given until then to obtain a new visa. By replacing Gill on February 14, 2019, Restaurant Brands had unjustifiably dismissed him.

O’Sullivan found that Restaurant Brands had failed to act as a good employer and Gill was awarded $18,000 for hurt and humiliation.