Christchurch restaurateur banned from employing staff, fined $20k

Couple toasting with wine in cafe
Photo credit: Getty/ file

The former owner of Watershed bar and restaurant and Sequoia 88 restaurant in Christchurch has been banned from employing staff for three years for persistently breaking employment law.

Gordon 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," Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said.

Mr Freeman included an illegal clause in employment agreements, even after being fined for doing so, which said staff forfeited their holiday pay if they gave less than six weeks notice when resigning.

It's the first time that the Employment Court has banned a person from hiring employees since the sanction was introduced in 2016.

In addition to the ban, Mr Freeman and his businesses must pay $20,000 in fines, $7,845 of which will paid to 23 affected employees.

If he breaches his ban he is liable to be convicted in court with a fine of up to $200,000 or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

The Labour Inspectorate first took against against Mr Freeman in 2015, over his company forcing employees to take annual leave by being rostered for one day annual leave each week without their consent.

The company stopped the practice when the inspectorate intervened, but then failed to pay out leave to employees when they terminated their contracts.

Mr Freeman no longer owns the Watershed Bar and Restaurant or Sequoia 88.