An Indian restaurant in Masterton has been ordered to pay a former tandoori chef $41,140 in compensation and unpaid wages.
The Employment Relations Authority found he was forced to work every day for nine months for $50 - $100 per week and was blackmailed to stay.
Gajendar Singh moved from India to New Zealand in May 2008 to work at the Plaza India restaurant and to help send money home to his family in India.
The ERA heard that his employer, Manjit Singh, took his passport, supposedly to assist him in renewing his visa.
But the restaurant owner refused to return the passport, withheld pay and threatened to accuse him of stealing if he left the job.
In its ruling the ERA says that, as a new immigrant with very limited English, Mr Singh was taken advantage of to what it says was an extreme degree.
Gunveer Enterprises Ltd, the company owning the restaurant, was ordered to pay Mr Singh $15,000 for hurt and humiliation and $26,140 in lost wages.
The company is now in receivership.
Union says not isolated case
The Service and Food Workers' Union says it comes across cases of migrant worker mistreatment and exploitation on a weekly basis.
The union's national secretary, John Ryall, says the Department of Labour needs to change the way it educates migrant workers about their employment rights.