Pay spat goes to air

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Worker, boss on ‘Fair Go’ over docked wages for crashing car.

A Queenstown worker’s dispute with her former boss over a car repair bill will air on TV’s Fair Go show.

Former Tatler Restaurant duty manager Kirsty Grant took her gripe against owner Mark Jessop to the top-rating consumer affairs programme – both parties were interviewed last week and the item’s due to screen next Wednesday.

Grant claims Jessop, after he paid a $750 repair on a car she pranged last October, then began docking her wages to recover the money without her knowledge.

The 21-year-old also maintains she wasn’t liable for the repair bill because it was a work colleague’s car she’d driven on company business – the prang should have been covered by Tatler’s insurance.

Grant says the stress forced her to quit the restaurant in January after almost a year and a half there.

But Jessop alleges Grant had her accident – reversing into another car at the Church Street carpark entrance – after she’d clocked off.

He was simply being a “good employer” by paying the repair bill, because she couldn’t afford it. And he didn’t insist she start paying the money back till her work hours began to increase.

Jessop is adamant that in December he and Grant discussed $45 a week deductions from her pay: “She understood what I was saying and accepted this.”

The restaurateur says his wife witnessed the discussion.

Grant is just as adamant the conversation didn’t occur.

In January, she emailed Jessop alleging she’d been “short-paid for about three hours each week”.

He replied: “Sorry, I was hoping to sit with you to discuss the bill but with the hectic period we did not manage to get together.

“If this does not suit and you have another suggestion, then we can look at that?”

Jessop admits this sounds incriminating: “I meant ‘further discuss the bill’ or ‘discuss it again’.”

Grant: “A verbal agreement or not, you need a written agreement to take wages from an employee.”

She complained to the Depart­ment of Labour, which offered mediation, but she wanted to speed matters up so went to Fair Go.

Jessop says he’d already decided not to dock her pay any more after taking $250 – Grant claims he took $360 gross – then refunded $125 when Fair Go became involved.

He disputes the car Grant drove was uninsured: “It had an excess of $1000.”

The experience has put him off lending money to other staff, Jessop says: “My poor staff will probably have to bloody fend for themselves because of her.”