MOM refutes claims by Laura over its slow response to her emails for help; withdraws mention of her real name

The claim that no one from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) replied to an aggrieved employee’s story over her dismissal from her 5-figure salaried job until she threatened to make the story public on Facebook is “not true”, said MOM in a statement on Saturday (14 March).

MOM also said that the other claim made by the woman, who goes by the pseudonym Laura, that TAFEP did not follow up her case with an investigation is also not true.

This is in reference to a story shared by activist Gilbert Goh on his Facebook page on 6 March, which was later reported on by TOC on 10 March. The story detailed Laura’s troubles from being made redundant by her employer only to be replaced by a foreign talent from Hong Kong, and her challenges with getting assistance from MOM and TAFEP on what she describes as a ‘wrongful dismissal’.

Laura said to Mr Goh that MOM had told her that they no longer handle such disputes and asked her to reach out to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment (TAFEP) instead. She said that she immediately reached out to TAFEP though they took some time in getting back to her, only doing so after she also reached out to 5th Senior Minister of Singapore Teo Chee Hean and Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo. She had also threatened to go public with the story.

Eventually, someone from TAFEP called Laura and advised her that she should wait until she received her severance payout (about 2 months after being let go) before they investigated the case as they wouldn’t be able to guarantee that the company would not hold back the payout.

Laura said, “[Please] note if I don’t sign the letter from [the company] I cannot receive my payout. So what can I do?”

“MOM and TAFEP cannot guarantee my payout and company cannot give me my payout if I don’t sign on a letter that discharges them of all liabilities,” she elaborated, describing this as “corporate bullying”.

She also called out MOM for allowing this to happen, saying, “MOM is clearly aware of all redundancies as companies need to report to them, so they approved the HK lady’s EP, granting her permission to replace me.”

“Does MOM even question the granting of an EP that is displacing a local? Simply because it is intra-company transfer so they don’t question?”

TOC has reached out to Laura’s employers as well as TAFEP for comments on these claims, however, we have yet to receive a response for either party.

MOM’s response; withdraws original statement which reveals Laura’s real name

On 13 March, MOM released a statement in response to Laura’s claims in which they revealed Laura’s real name and job title. However, the ministry quickly withdrew that statement and replaced it with another on 14 March which doesn’t mention either.

In the 14 March statement, MOM said that Laura first emailed them on 21 January, then again on 22 January. The ministry clarified that a TAFEP officer then contacted Laura on 23 January to arrange for a phone conversation that took place on the same day.

MOM said it has reviewed the recording of that conversation.

According to MOM, Laura has revealed that she was expecting a severance payment from her employer on 7 March. Laura had said in a follow-up interview with Mr Goh and TOC that she was told by the TAFEP officer that she should wait for the severance payment before they investigate because they wouldn’t be able to guarantee that the company would pay it if they start investigating immediately.

MOM said in its statement, “Laura” then agreed that TAFEP should wait till the severance payment was made.”

The ministry then quoted what Laura apparently said in the recording, “I will tell you once I receive the money all in. 7 March I will come back to you again. You can stir whatever s*** you need to stir lah, I don’t care anymore.”

The ministry then went on to say that Laura followed-up the phone conversation with another email to TAFEP on the same day in which she implied they were unwilling to help her.

However, in an email on 2 March, MOM said Laura had apparently reminded TAFEP that her severance payment is due in a few days. She apparently said, “I will confirm by Sat, 7 Mar, if the severance has been paid out. Please wait for my confirmation before you start reaching out to Refinitiv.”

MOM went on to say that on 6 March, Laura had informed TAFEP that she received her severance payment and accused them of holding back the investigation against her wishes.

The statement continued, “In a further email on the same day, she threatened that if she did not hear back after a week, she will proceed with an interview with Gilbert Goh.”

MOM noted that their officer replied on the same day confirming that TAFEP would proceed with the investigation as per their previous agreement. However, Laura replied that her story was already published by Mr Goh.

MOM concluded in its statement, “We appreciate that “Laura” was going through a difficult time.”

It added that it has tried its best to “be supportive and follow up with her” on her claims of discrimination against her company, adding that firm action will be taken against the company if it is found to have breached any part of the  Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

The statement ended, “In addition, we have advised “Laura” on 30 Jan 2020 and 24 Feb 2020 that if she wishes to pursue a claim of wrongful dismissal, she should file a claim within 1 month after her last day of employment (in other words, by 19 March 2020).”

This claim, according to MOM, will be looked at separately from TAFEP’s investigation into Laura’s former company.

Past revelation of personal information by gov’t did not go down well in public

Now as mentioned above, MOM had actually published an initial statement which revealed Laura’s real name and job title before taking it down and replacing it with the current statement which only refers to her pseudonym.

This move of revealing Laura’s real name and job title is reminiscent of a case in December last year when the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board revealed the real name of a single-mother suffering from an autoimmune disease that left her unable to work. The woman was struggling to obtain her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings which she needed to support her family. TOC reported on the woman’s story using a pseudonym but CPF revealed her real name and personal information in its response statement.

The move was not well-received by the public which slammed the government for revealing personal information without considering how it would affect the woman and her family. Many netizens said that the government’s act of naming and shaming the sick woman publicly is a very “shameful” and “below the belt” move.

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