Bosses cook up story to sack chef

ROB KIDD
Last updated 10:30 22/11/2012

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A family-owned Auckland cafe has been ordered to pay its former head chef more than $15,000 after a story was cooked up to get rid of her.

The Employment Relations Authority found that Prema D'Souza, who worked at the Talent Bean-owned Roasted Addiqtion Roastery cafe, was unfairly dismissed by bosses who sent her two written warnings and an email terminating her employment, all on the same day.

D'Souza, an Indian citizen, was head chef for four months before being dismissed by Talent Bean director Yonglin Shan in April.

Days before her sacking she had an argument with Shan's father Jimmy, a menial worker at the cafe, over icing some cookies.

D'Souza explained to him they were too hot to be iced and that she would do it the following day but she said Jimmy thrust the baking tray at her; a claim he denied.

The incident prompted the chef to go home and write up a list of issues she had, which she wished to discuss with Shan.

At the start of the meeting, D'Souza handed him the note, which he read and laughed at.

He refused to discuss her concerns, threatened to dismiss her and ruin her application for permanent residence.

While giving evidence Shan and other family members who worked at the café said D'Souza had actually resigned at the start of the meeting and they cited several issues with her performance as head chef.

They said she wasted food, used expired products, couldn't make hash browns and spoke in Hindi, which affected customers.

Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon ruled evidence given on behalf of Talent Bean was "inconsistent and contradictory"

"The witnesses for the respondent were not credible. Their evidence was self serving and contradictory," she said.

Shan's email containing two written warnings and the termination, which were not discussed with D'Souza, were not the actions of a reasonable employer, Fitzgibbon said.

D'Souza was awarded compensation for humiliation and loss of dignity, reimbursement of wages and costs of the hearing totalling $15,420.

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