A 20-year-old Malaysian woman allegedly committed suicide after suffering from workplace bullying and work pressure during her time of employment in Singapore.
The Facebook page “Save us from SLM Vxxxxxcare Singapore” shared a letter written by the deceased to her family, which described the extent of her distress while working at an eye therapy company in Singapore.
It revealed that the deceased — who could not be named as the case is currently under investigation — was employed as a therapist at the company on 1 August last year for about four months.
“During her time of employment, she faced constant bullying and insults by the director [name redacted] who asked her every day about the business sales and why she is so stupid that she could not reach the sales target.
“She was under severe stress and depression all the time from the pressure to achieve unrealistic sales targets,” the post read.
Woman bombarded by employer with text messages and calls demanding her to come back to work despite having approved leave
One of such instances, according to the post, pertained to the deceased applying for unpaid and emergency leave to attend her relative’s funeral in Penang in October last year.
Despite having her leave approved by the director’s wife–the Admin and Human Resource Manager–the deceased was bombarded by text messages and calls from the director on her journey back to Penang, demanding her to return to Singapore immediately while claiming that “his wife’s approval is not acceptable”.
She then returned straight back to Singapore after paying respects to her relative, which caused distress to her family and led to her father to confront the director through the phone.
Upon her return to work, she was further reprimanded and criticised for applying for emergency leave on short notice.
Besides this, the deceased was also accused of sleeping on the job when she was actually resting before her late shift and was not scheduled to work at that time.
“Management was unaware of her working schedule and made this conclusion incorrectly. They ignore her explanation despite being fully aware of the working schedule which was distributed on a weekly basis.
“This brought great stress to [the deceased] as she was unable to prove her innocence to management,” the post claimed.
The director, the post alleged, criticised the deceased “for not achieving the expected sales targets while comparing her performance to newer members of staff”.
“He questioned why she took medical leave so often and asked how many times she slept during office hours. He also complained that she did not yet obtain her driving license in Singapore,” the post added.
Employer criticises deceased for not achieving expected sales targets, deducts advance leave, asks her to cancel leave, and later terminates her contract
In another incident, the deceased in September last year applied for a six-day advance leave from 13 to 18 December the same year –- in compliance with the company policy –- to attend a family wedding in Penang, which was also approved by the director’s wife.
In November, however, the director reduced her leave to four days from 14 to 17 December, with the reason given that “she had not reached the expected sales targets”, which the deceased reluctantly agreed to.
However, on the evening of 13 December — on which the deceased had to rush for the last bus to Penang — she was held back by the director for an impromptu meeting.
The director reportedly reiterated that she should consider not taking her approved leave due to her poor performance.
The deceased had then reluctantly agreed to cancel her leave as a result.
However, she then was immediately served a letter of termination.
The letter stated that she would not receive full salary and would be required to compensate the company over S$1,000 due to tax clearance.
The director also told the deceased that she needed to be terminated “so that the company could have a slot for a new staff, as the company had no available quota”, while asking her to return her work permit as soon as possible.
She missed her last bus to Penang and was left to wait till the morning to return home as a result of the lengthy meeting.
If that’s not all, she was also allegedly frequently hassled by the director and HR personnel on the following leave days, asking her to return the work permit immediately.
She eventually travelled back to Singapore on 18 December to return her work permit.
No longer able to cope with stress and depression, the deceased reportedly took her own life at her home in the town of Muar in Johor on 19 December after she wrote her last letter to her family.
Deceased’s family lodges police report and files complaint to MOM
Shin Min Daily News reported that the deceased’s mother initially wanted to come to Singapore to seek justice for her daughter.
However, the mother’s efforts were delayed as she had no passport and money. She was also unable to travel to Singapore as a result of the implementation of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order.
However, she later met a former employee of her daughter’s last workplace through her goddaughter and told the former employee about what had happened to her daughter.
The former employee expressed sympathy for her daughter and helped the mother to file a complaint to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) while the mother lodged a police report in Malaysia.
MOM: Currently investigating the allegations raised about the workplace
MOM told TODAY that the Malaysian worker did not make a report before her death and the deceased’s mother had contacted the Ministry about 11 months later on 29 October this year.
The Ministry added that they have reached out to the deceased’s mother and are currently investigating the allegations raised about the workplace.
Deceased’s former employer denies the allegations, claiming that the competitor made the malicious allegations
According to Shin Min, the director rebutted the allegations, explaining that the dismissal of the deceased was due to her poor performance at work.
He said he was aware that it was the deceased’s first time working in Singapore and that she had encountered “some problems in her personal relationship” last year.
He went on to say that the timing of the Facebook post is “suspect”, as the deceased’s alleged suicide took place nearly a year ago.
“I believe that a former employee has recently set up a competitor firm.
“All these false and malicious posts are intended to deter potential customers from patronising my company as well as prevent potential employees from joining, so as to harm my business,” the director spoke through his lawyer.
He also claimed he had contacted the deceased’s family to express his shock over a group of disgruntled former employees who published the deceased’s story at the expense of her family for the purpose of harming his business.
“I apologise for this, because if it were not for my competitors who made malicious accusations against my company, this matter would not be made public,” Shin Min reported him as saying.
While noting that he is a demanding employer, the director, however, stressed that he is fair to his employees and his current employees can help to prove the company’s working culture is positive.
It was also reported that the director had called the deceased’s mother to apologise, asking for forgiveness after he was lambasted by netizens when the incident went viral online.
However, the family of the deceased told him that the apology came too late and that they cannot forgive him, adding that they will seek legal solutions as a result of the deceased’s death, reported by Shin Min.
Following media reports highlighting the case, the company unpublished its page after people began leaving nasty comments regarding the issue.
Denying the allegations made in the Facebook post, the director told TODAY that he has lodged a police report on online harassment he received.
“While I am a strict and demanding employer, I am also a fair one, and I believe many of my present employees will attest to the positive work culture at my company,” he told TODAY.
Several of his former employees, however, told TODAY that working at the firm was “unbearable”, as they were frequently subject to verbal abuse during their time at the company.
Some of them worked there for as long as eight months while a few left within days, TODAY noted.
One current employee who has worked with the company for more than a year told TODAY that the director “just wants his employees to be better, for their own good” despite having a hot temper.
Netizens prompt MOM to conduct proper investigation
After the case blew up online, netizens were quick to pen their thoughts on the Facebook page of TODAY, prompting MOM to ensure a fair outcome from its investigations so that “unscrupulous employers cannot take advantage of employees”.
“MOM must look into this and also do some spring visits and speak to employees to know the ground,” a netizen wrote.
Several netizens shared their own experiences of surviving workplace abuse.
They expressed hope that authorities will do more to prevent such bullying and establish channels for abused employees to seek help.
While expressing sympathy to the deceased, several netizens also commented that her case is “just a tip of a huge iceberg”, as many have “suffered quietly” from workplace bullying but are afraid to report unscrupulous employers.