A Wellington cafe worker awarded $9000 after being wrongly sacked after one day’s work has now pocketed a side order of legal fees.
Helen Mawhinney’s legal win has now been topped up from $9000 to $12,080 after her former employer was told to pay some of her legal expenses.
In February she won her case at the Employment Relations Authority against Sfizio Ltd, over one day’s work in its Wadestown Kitchen cafe which later turned sour when she was told it was an unpaid trial.
Authority member Michele Ryan found Mawhinney had in fact been hired. She ordered Sfizio to pay Mawhinney just over $9000 – $7000 in compensation, $119.07 for work done on August 4, 2017, and $1890 for four weeks’ notice.
Now in a follow-up order, Ryan has instructed the company to pay Mawhinney $3000 as a contribution towards her costs in bringing the claim to the ERA, plus reimbursement of the filing fee, $71.56.
Mawhinney had met Sfizio directors Kathy Parfitt and Curtis Gregorash after replying to an ad for an experienced barista. It was agreed Mawhinney would attend at the Wadestown Kitchen the next day.
She told the authority she had worked a full shift from 8am to 4pm, doing a range of tasks.
After the cafe closed for the day, she asked Parfitt should she provide her bank details for payment. Parfitt replied: “Oh, did Curtis not tell you? This was an unpaid trial.”
Mawhinney explained to Parfitt she had incurred childcare and travel costs.
Hours later Parfitt texted Mawhinney to apologise for “confusion” about the day’s unpaid trial, and offering a job at Wadestown.
Four days later, Mawhinney texted back to decline the job and demand payment, advising that if not paid by week’s end she would pursue mediation.
Gregorash replied, stating Sfizio didn’t pay for trial days and that trialists were unproductive and could leave at will.
“It is not a day of work,” he wrote, adding that the job offer was withdrawn.
To the authority, he said Sfizio never offered employment before a person did a competency assessment. But he accepted the arrangements for Mawhinney’s attendance at the cafe hadn’t been recorded in writing.
Mawhinney, by contrast, told the authority that at her interview, Parfitt said she was “exactly what we are looking for” and they could give her 30 hours a week.
She said Parfitt told her “to come in tomorrow and work a full shift” and that she believed this meant she had secured the job.
Ryan said she preferred Mawhinney’s evidence and was not satisfied matters surrounding the August 4 shift were conveyed to Mawhinney by Sfizio.
Mawhinney had crossed the line between assessment and work. The work she performed had produced an economic benefit for Sfizio.
Make sure you’re up to date with employment law, as a member you have access to a 24/7 legal helpline and up to date employment contracts and resources.
Helpline contact: 0800 737 827