A Hamilton business owner is accused of threatening to “expose” a former employee after One Union filed a claim against the employer for $26,000 in unpaid wages, and the return of $10,000 the worker was forced to pay to keep her job.
The employer is Ms Sejalben Patel (aka Sejal Patel), the owner of Skin Delight Limited, that employed the worker between March and December 2018. Patel has owned several businesses over the years and has engaged in similar exploitation of her employees.
Attempts to get this worker justice has gone on for over 18 months without success. After Patel was advised last week that the case is now filed in the Employment Relations Authority, she unlawfully contacted the worker with a series of texts and calls, threatening blackmail to the worker on unspecified matters unless the worker withdrew her case and terminated the union as her representative.
The union’s claim alleges the worker was required by Patel to work for no wages for the first three months of employment. Thereafter the worker was paid less than 30 hours weekly, despite working for 50 hours. It seems taxes were not passed to the Inland Revenue Department. In addition, Patel pressured the worker to pay a $10,000 “loan” to keep her job. When the worker requested this money back as promised, Patel threatened legal actions against her.
Disappointingly, when the Employment Authority arranged formal mediation last August, Patel was a no show. Afterwards she did admit to the essential facts of the case and offered to enter into good faith negotiations to resolve the matter. Yet despite Patel’s many promises, none of this loan has ever been returned. Nor has she made any offer to pay any of the unpaid wages or outstanding holiday pay she owes the worker.
Despite the union’s direct warnings to Patel, and the filing of a formal complaint with the police, Patel continues to harass this worker and another member of her family. We have instructed the worker to block her calls and pass on any communications from Patel to us. The emails and texts from Patel are damning evidence and will be tabled in the appropriate forum.
We are aware of at least one other occasion where Patel has threatened another former employee with similar tactics. As a consequence One Union has had to support a formal court non-molestation order against Patel. We have also filed an urgent application to the Employment Authority requesting immediate actions for financial penalties against Patel for harassment, in addition to the repayment of the loan and unpaid wages.
It is critical that employers like Patel are held to account for their bullying and menacing behaviour. Patel has engaged in an ongoing pattern of abusive and exploitive conduct against vulnerable workers. We settled an earlier case with Patel for a former employee with an almost identical story. At that time she gave a commitment to us she would stop her exploitative behaviour. It is now clear she has not. We are aware of another similar case underway against her. In the last month we have been contacted by several other people who have passed on other disturbing information about Patel. In the last month we understand Patel has made serious allegations against people she has had a dispute with. These people have strenuously denied her claims. Given her track record I’d be sceptical of anything she says.
People like Patel must be stopped from owning a business or employing workers. One Union is compiling a dossier on Patel for the MBIE Labour Inspectorate, Immigration NZ, and the Inland Revenue Department. We will then request action from these enforcement entities against Patel.
If people have any information regarding Ms Sejalben (Sejal) Patel, Unique Cleaning Solutions Limited, Avondale Superette, Fruit & Vege Supermarket in Hamilton, or Skin Delight Limited please contact us at email@example.com
Matt McCarten is the Secretary of One Union