So, I just learned something really shitty…

The Disputes Tribunal – essentially small claims court – cannot deal with cases where “someone knows they should do something but simply refuses to (for example, to chase a debt that someone agrees they owe you)”.

Why this sucks: Since T quit Toxic Job, we have been waiting to be reimbursed a couple hundred dollars in expenses. These were incurred on behalf of the company on our personal credit card shortly before he left.

It has now been over four months. We have been constantly following up. There are two bosses; let’s call them Aaron and Ant. Aaron is the sane, decent, normal one, and who unfortunately is/was also the less hands-on one. After initially contacting Ant, T has mostly been emailing Aaron lately – since he is infinitely more reasonable – and Aaron has been apologetic and understanding. Though, let it be observed, not to the point of ACTIONING THE REIMBURSEMENT.

Based on the vibe T is getting from him, and the fact that T’s ex-colleague/buddy (we’ll call him Rich) just interviewed for a job at the competition, it seems like shit is going down over there. Rich is young, a small town boy, a bit of a pushover really, who has put up with Ant for months. So for him to have finally had enough and be looking elsewhere, it must be bad. (On the plus side, since he got the new job and starts in January, it’ll mean no more talk about Toxic Job when he comes around to visit in the future. That was the worst part about the friendship IMO – dwelling on all that drama.)

I have financially written off that money, but I cannot let it go emotionally (though I really should for sanity’s sake) and I refuse to give up on the principle (and T is fully in agreement on that count). Being an asshole and driving away all your staff is one thing; cheating them out of money that they are owed is another.

I’d had the idea in the back of my mind that Disputes Tribunal would be the next step, but apparently it won’t be. The fact that money is owed is not actually in dispute.

I know that unpaid wages would fall under the Employment Relations Authority; I’m assuming money owed for reimbursements would probably be in the same boat. Need to look into this further, but it’s a headache I really do not need right now.

Allrighty, vent over. Any advice gratefully received.

11 thoughts on “So, I just learned something really shitty…

  • Reply Revanche December 5, 2014 at 09:51

    Aw crap. I have all the sympathy and am furious on your behalf… sadly, don’t think I have anything useful since I’m not familiar with NZ labor law and related things. 🙁

  • Reply Tracey December 5, 2014 at 10:11

    When I had trouble with an old employer not paying Kiwisaver on my final pay like they were supposed to, I contacted IRD who forced them to do so. I don’t know if this would work for reimbursements, but could be worth a shot? Failing that, maybe send an email to the employer and say that you’ll be going to the Employment Relations Authority. The threat alone might be enough to get it paid out.

    Good luck.

    • Reply eemusings December 5, 2014 at 16:47

      Veiled threat already made (response to that was basically ‘we’re working on it and we hope this won’t need to be taken any further). Sigh.

  • Reply Liquid December 5, 2014 at 10:37

    That’s totally frustrating. What’s the point of having a Disputes Tribunal if they don’t even take things seriously? 😐 I’ve heard about similar stories in Canada. Nobody is watching out for the average worker anymore.

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget December 5, 2014 at 13:31

    I don’t understand. How are they legally not required to owe you the money if you went to small claims court (which I’m assuming is your Disputes Tribunal)??

    I am so very thankful that CA has some of the best laws to protect employees. When I was laid off by a company that is based in Florida (but has offices nationwide), they tried to not pay me my vacation time, which was legal in Florida, but illegal in California. I filed a claim, and according to the law, I was entitled to my full pay for every day that they were late in giving me that money. On top of my paid vacation time, I got an extra five days’ worth of pay. It was wonderful.

    I would definitely do some more research. There has got to be SOMETHING. Know any good lawyer friends that could write you a letter? Do you guys have something similar to Legal Shield over there?

    • Reply eemusings December 5, 2014 at 16:45

      It’s not that they don’t legally owe us the money, it’s that this is not the type of matter that the Disputes Tribunal handles. Apparently they are geared towards cases where the debt is actually in dispute. And in this case the debt is not in dispute, it’s simply that they aren’t paying it. (I hope that makes sense – the link in the post clicks through to more detail).

      I can’t even think about this for the next couple of weeks as I have a ton of stuff on. Will dig into over the Christmas holidays.

  • Reply The Asian Pear December 6, 2014 at 04:43

    That sucks… So is there any other legal mechanism to help you get funds? I mean… Certainly there must be cases of people who admit they owe money but just won’t pay. Where do those cases go? 🙁

  • Reply Nicole December 6, 2014 at 23:03

    This situation sucks! Perhaps T should apply to the ERA for a compliance order under section 137 of the Employment Relations Act 🙂 there will be a filing fee to pay but the employer will be required to pay it back if T is successful (which it sounds like he will if the $$ is undisputed) – good luck!

  • Reply Manda | musicalpoem December 7, 2014 at 06:05

    Ugh, this sucks. I have no expertise in any law, New Zealand or otherwise, so I’ve got no advice, unfortunately. But there must be some legal avenue that you can pursue once the craziness of the holidays die down and you have some free time to devote to this?

  • Reply Anon December 7, 2014 at 09:09

    Try the ERA, or even your local community law centre. Failing that, if the debt is not in dispute just the payment, consider a debt collection agency. You’ll prob need to write to A&A (ie ex employers) and tell them that that is what you will do, and that the agency’s fees will be added to the outstanding amount. Good luck. Makes you shitty when you have to fight for what is rightfully yours.

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank December 8, 2014 at 21:49

    Aw that’s really a headache. I feel you. There is such situation we cannot avoid, especially when we are dealing with people who are already not attached to us “directly”. It’s really hard to follow-up to someone who has no care and insensitive to the situation. Hope it turns out well.

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