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The Employment court has ruled ex-Gloriavale members were employees from six years old, not volunteers.
Hosea and Levi Courage, and Daniel Pilgrim, have now left the religious community, but sought a declaration on their status after leaving school and working at the commune and its businesses.
The Employment court found the work can't be described as chores or education, because of the commercial nature.
The commune claimed work done from the ages of six-to 14 are chores, at age 15 it's part of schoolwork, and from 16 it was voluntary.
Employment Specialist with the Whitehead Group, Max Whitehead said with more judgements to come, this could create huge implications for the community.
“Now this ruling’s been set, these people are employees, those other questions are going to be asked and look, this could bankrupt Gloriavale.”