Pilgrim v Attorney General 2022 NZEmpC 53

Employment Court - Girls

Were six former female residents of the Gloriavale Christian Community employees during their time there? Were they working in conditions akin to servitude and slavery?

If you are a female who believes they were employed by Gloriavale, you may be eligible for compensation. Please click here to be informed of the process.

Overview of the Pilgrim Case (NZEmpC 105)

The Girls’ case is a follow-on from the Boys’ Employment case (Courage 2022). Read the background to that case to assist you with the context for the Girls’ case.

Gloriavale is described as a self-sustaining Christian Community with its 550 residents living what might be referred to as a communal lifestyle. It is made up of a Trust, a Partnership, a nominee company, a holding company, and a number of limited liability trading companies to operate a variety of commercial enterprises, including a honey making plant and a dairy farm.

Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal, Pearl Valor and Virginia Courage were all born into the Community and carried out various forms of domestic work starting from a young age. All six of them left Gloriavale and sought a declaration in the court that they were employees when performing work for the Community.

The case is bring brought against the Attorney General in the first instance, due to alleged failure of the State to recognise the employment status of the girls during 2015/16 and 2020/21 investigations.

The second defendants are the Gloriavale Shepherds. The Gloriavale defendants denied that the plaintiffs were employees. They claimed that the young ladies were simply participating in household and family chores. There was no intention to enter into an employment relationship at any stage.

Click here to read a Daily Vale post which details the long road to the Employment Court. It follows the journey of leavers speaking up in the media, failed Government investigations, and finally a team of lawyers who were able to drive it to the courts.

Ruling of the Pilgrim Case (NZEmpC 105)

13 July 2023, Chief Judge Christina Inglis released her 64-page judgement and made declarations that Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal, Pearl Valor and Virginia Courage were employees from the age they joined the teams (around 6-8 years old) until they left the Gloriavale Community.

  • The Judge said,
“In a typical week in 2018, the female workforce in the kitchen produced more than 11,000 meals; the female workforce in the laundry washed at least 17,000 items. The evidence clearly established that the work required to produce these outcomes was unrelenting, grinding, hard, and physically and psychologically demanding.

“The evidence disclosed that none of the plaintiffs were given a choice about whether they worked on the Teams or not. Broadly speaking, that decision had been assigned at birth, having been born female. Nor (as I will come to) did any of the plaintiffs (or their parents) exercise any real choice about which Team they worked on. Rather, the plaintiffs were assigned to a particular Team without any real consultation, and generally became aware of which Team they had been assigned to when they left the Community school, and saw their name written on a roster on a Community notice board in the main building.”

” Each of the plaintiffs was born into the Community and they were taught from birth that they were to submit to male leadership in all aspects of their life  including their work”

” I have reached the conclusion, based on the evidence before the Court, that the plaintiffs did their work on the Teams, which admittedly benefitted the Community, because that is what they were told to do; what each of them had been trained to accept from birth; and the consequences of not doing what was expected (namely falling “out of unity”) were dire and well known – exclusion from the Community, from all that was familiar, from family and friends, and into a world they know little about, were ill equipped to navigate and had been taught to fear.”

Read a summarised version of the court judgement on the Daily Vale.

The plaintiffs also claimed that the Labour Inspector breached their statutory duties. This aspect of the claim centred on a report of the Labour Inspector, concluding that people working in Gloriavale were volunteers. This part of the proceedings will be heard at a later date.

Read the Media Statement the court released.

Press Conference following Judgment

Hear from the victorious plaintiffs and their legal team as they respond to the news of the win.

Part Two Judgment – Who is the Employer?

On 15 December 2023, Chief Justice Inglis ruled that Overseeing Shepherd Howard Temple was the employer of the girls after they left school (usually around aged 15) and entered the workforce at Gloriavale.

She stated,

“I have formed the view that at all material times the employer was the Overseeing Shepherd. Essentially that is because the evidence pointed squarely to the Overseeing Shepherd, at any particular point in time, being the ultimate controlling force within the Community, specifically (although not exclusively) in respect of work and in respect of the assets of the Community.”

Read the full judgment here.

Read a summary here.

Read a layman’s explanation here.

Impact of the Case

If you worked at Springbank/Gloriavale and are interested in knowing how these rulings might assist you to get some compensation, fill in the form on this page asap and your details will be passed through to Brian Henry’s legal team. They will be in touch.

The Lead up to the Case

  • The lead up to the case was filled with drama. The Girls’ case was filed just as the Boys’ Employment case was getting underway in Feb/March 2022. The judge granted an application for urgency stating,

“While none of the plaintiffs remain at Gloriavale, the application for urgency is advanced on the basis that other females, including young girls, who do remain there are being subjected to the same treatment that they allege they endured and that this is giving rise to serious concerns about their ongoing safety. Those concerns are set out in an affidavit filed in support of the application.”

“The application is essentially advanced on the basis that a fair-minded lay observer may reasonably apprehend that I might be biased when deciding the case in light of the fact that I recently heard and determined a preliminary issue in a related proceeding, namely Courage v Attorney General.”

She declined the request and will remain as the trial judge for the Girl’s Employment Case starting  29 August 2022. Read the Daily Vale for more details.

  • August 2022 – Gloriavale applies to the judge to exclude 297 paragraphs of evidence and two full briefs from the plaintiffs and witnesses affidavits (for the upcoming Girl’s case), arguing they were either scandalous, hearsay or opinion. Mr Skelton QC, counsel for the second defendants, said the briefs of evidence which had been filed for the plaintiffs presented a dark picture of life in Gloriavale in general and a wide-range of grievances against the second defendants. He submitted that large portions of the evidence had no relevance, or alternatively, very little relevance, to whether or not the plaintiffs were employees of the second defendants. He said much of it was scandalous in nature and gave every appearance of having been included to embarrass or prejudice the second defendants.

Mr Skelton summarised the second defendants’ objections, saying that their concerns fell into several broad categories:

(a) allegations of lying, dishonesty, theft, bribery, and misleading government agencies;
(b) allegations of minimising tax obligations and maximising government benefits;
(c) allegations that Gloriavale residents were not provided with adequate dental or healthcare;
(d) allegations (or insinuations) of sexual abuse or harassment;
(e) alleged physical abuse of young children;
(f) egregious hearsay;
(g) other irrelevant evidence that could only have been included for its prejudicial effect;
(h) evidence about the state of mind of persons other than the witness; and
(i) opinion, often verging on submission, characterising Gloriavale and life in the community in a negative fashion.

Judge B A Corkill was selected for this job and he allowed a large majority of it to be admissible. Issues of sexual misconduct and anything related to background and power and control were allowed to remain. Judge Corkill said,

“In short, the plaintiffs have pleaded a broad range of examples of the way they lived their lives at Gloriavale may be relevant to the issue of control. The examples they give will, on the plaintiffs’ case, be part of the broad inquiry. It is clear from the authorities referred to earlier that evidence which is scandalous may nonetheless be relevant and therefore admissible.”

Read more in the Daily Vale post. Read the judgement here: https://www.employmentcourt.govt.nz/assets/2022-NZEmpC-145-Pilgrim-v-Attorney-General-No-6-jud-180822.pdf

  • August 2022 Gloriavale surveys its members in a most extraordinary fashion, creating what ex-members consider to be a blacklist of people they do NOT want to speak on their behalf. Read the Daily Vale post for more details. The survey hits the media and causes a big stir and some amusement among people who have left Gloriavale. This has the desired effect of finding more “willing” witnesses for the case and Gloriavale ends up putting forward 30 current members to defend it’s position.
  • 29 August 2022 Court Case starts in the Christchurch District Court. It runs off and on until 30 March 2023. There were 2.5 months of in-court time, one week being held in Greymouth which included a site visit to Gloriavale for the Judge and legal teams. There were 50 witnesses all up, including a Forensic Accountant, a Hostel Manager and a Forensic Psychiatrist.
  • 30 March 2023 – Closing Submissions ends. Awaiting judgement.
  • 13 July 2023 – Judgement released. The Gloriavale Leavers’ (Plaintiffs) have won! The judge found they were employees from the time they joined the Teams (some as young as 6-8 years of age). Click here to read the Judgment.
  • 13 July 2023 – Gloriavale announces it intends to appeal the decision.
  • 11 August 2023 – Gloriavale seeks leave to appeal the Employment Court decision
  • 9 December 2023 – Judges decide Gloriavale bid to appeal largely fails, although invite submissions on finer points of law relating to other religious and volunteer organisations.
  • 15 December 2023 – Judge Inglis decides the Overseeing Shepherd is the employee. (The role and the person fulfilling the role carries the responsibility and the liability)

The Timeline


Girls' Court Case Filed

Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal,  Pearl Valor and Virginia Courage were all born into the Community and carried out various forms of domestic work starting from a young age. All six of them left Gloriavale and sought a declaration in the court that they were employees when performing work for the Community.

March 23, 2022
August 3, 2022

Inadmissibility Hearing

Gloriavale received the Affidavits from the plaintiffs and witnesses and subsequently requested 297 paragraphs be removed, along with two full briefs of evidence stating it was either scandalous, hearsay, opinion or irrelevant.
August 11, 2022

Gloriavale Survey

Gloriavale surveys its members in a most extraordinary fashion, and calls for more witnesses to "protect the Community".  The survey hits the media and causes a big stir among people who have left Gloriavale.

August 17, 2022

Girls' Court Case Begins

Today the Employment Court started a five-week hearing to determine whether Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal,  Pearl Valor and Virginia Courage were employees when performing various forms of domestic work for the Gloriavale Community.

August 29, 2022

Girls' Court Case Ruling

Chief Judge Christina Inglis ruled that each of the six plaintiffs was an employee from the time they started work on the teams (age 6-8) until the time they left the community, and that they are entitled to costs. Click here to read the Judgement.
July 13, 2023

Gloriavale Seeks Leave to Appeal Decision

Gloriavale seeks permission to appeal the Employment Court decision.  They list multitudes of reasons - including prejudicial information was admitted, the ruling will impact the community, a breach of natural justice occurred, issues with the expert witness process etc. The plaintiffs responded to media.
August 11, 2023

Who is the Employer Judgment

The judge rules the Overseeing Shepherd and the people who fulfill that role are the employers. She states the current Overseeing Shepherd is the "ultimate controlling force within the Community" and he takes on any responsibilities and liabilities of any preceding Overseeing Shepherd. Read the judgment here.
December 15, 2023