ERA urges inquiry into Porirua hair salon

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013
Hazel Morton
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
ON THE WARPATH: Hazel Morton, a former employee at Hair Club in Porirua, is determined to get her unpaid wages. The Employment Relations Authority awarded her $19,034.45 but she hasn’t ‘‘seen a cent’’.

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Hazel Morton says working for the Hair Club salon in Porirua was the worst career decision of her life, and she is advising others not to make the same mistake.

The salon's parent company, Hairshop Ltd, was earlier this month ordered to pay Ms Morton almost $20,000 in unpaid wages and damages after her manager, Joseph Brookes, allegedly trapped her in a room and threatened her for complaining about unpaid tax.

"I asked him why he hadn't paid my tax dollars and his exact words were, you have no . . . right to ask me about your tax dollars," she told The Dominion Post.

"It was just abusing me really, saying all I did was moan and that I was a loud mouth . . . the whole thing lasted about seven minutes."

Ms Morton was not the only one with concerns about the personal and professional behaviour of Mr Brookes. The Employment Relations Authority has called on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to investigate him, Hairshop Ltd, and its director Shamir Doutrous, who all went to ground after Ms Morton laid a complaint.

"Prospective employees need to be alerted, with their eyes wide open, as to what to expect from Mr Brookes and Shamir Doutrous and the running of the business they are involved in," authority member Paul Stapp said.

"If the information is all true, as presented, this business and how it is run is disgraceful and may be affecting other employees."

Ms Morton said the entire time she worked at the Hair Club, between January and June, she was never paid in full.

She raised the matter weekly, but things hit boiling point on May 23 when Mr Brookes confronted her and told her that if she did not like her job, she should "get out".

Ms Morton began crying and tried to leave but Mr Brookes stood in front of the door and would not let her out.

He eventually relented after she began yelling.

Her hours were soon cut back from six days a week to three, then on June 25 she was told not to bother coming back to work at all.

The authority stepped in to investigate Ms Morton's complaint of unfair dismissal and unpaid wages, but Hairshop Ltd would not co-operate or provide any documents.

In addition to awarding Ms Morton $19,034.45 in unpaid wages and damages, the authority also penalised Hairshop Ltd $3000 for breaching its obligations under the Employment Relations Act.

Mr Brookes did not return phone messages yesterday. A manager at the Hair Club told The Dominion Post she could not comment and referred all questions back to Mr Brookes.

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Ms Morton said she had not seen a cent of the money awarded to her but she would fight to make sure she did.

"To get the money he owes me is probably going to be a struggle," she said. "But I want him shut down. I'll do whatever it takes to get my money and have him shut down."

- The Dominion Post

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