Woman’s claims for lost wages from ex-partner’s father for work on dairy farm dismissed

A woman’s claims for $13,930 in lost wages for work done on her ex-partner’s father’s dairy farm has been dismissed by the Employment Relations Authority.

Identified only as LA by the authority, the woman claimed she was employed at the dairy farm for two seasons, 2015 and 2016, for calf rearing.

The farm owner, named as RB, denied ever employing her and claimed the work she did was part of the “family” who all pitched in during a period of time when his wife was sick and after her death.

When LA moved onto the property in 2012, she had been in a relationship with RB’s son, and she and her then partner resided rent-free in an accommodation on the farm.

The authority also heard from RB’s two daughters who were also adamant there was no employment relationship, and noted that LA was treated as a member of the family as she was their brother’s partner.

“Although there was no basis for this, it was expected they would both help out where needed on the farm and carry out renovations,” they said.

LA had already unsuccessfully taken RB to the Disputes Tribunal for the same claims.

In her evidence, LA said although she had not kept a log of hours and there was no discussions of wages or matters such as KiwiSaver, she felt she was controlled to the extent she would work seven days on the trot.

LA said she received no payment other than $3000 which was paid into her bank account.

LA split with her partner in Nov 2017 when he moved to Blenheim and remained on the property for a further six months, and paid rent over the period.

RB said the $3000 he gave to LA was a gift to help both her and his son when he made the payment. He said the payments were treated as his own drawings, and not wages.

Authority member Geoff O’Sullivan determined that there were “no hallmarks of an employment relationship present” in this case.

“It seems to me that the defence put up by RB is to be preferred when it comes to the intention of the parties,” he said.

“There was no intention by RB to create any form of legal relationship.”

He said there were no grounds to say an employment relationship existed.

“LA had come on to the farm as part of the family and the evidence indicates the relationship was one of mutual support,” O’Sullivan said.

He concluded that LA was not an employee of RB and dismissed her claims because of a lack of jurisdiction.

Costs were reserved and the parties were encouraged to resolve the costs for the hearing of $2250 between themselves.

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