Church accepts MOM's decision on pregnant worker's sacking

Church accepts MOM's decision on pregnant worker's sacking
The Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) building

A Church that took the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to the High Court over the sacking of a pregnant female employee has backed down.

The Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) said in a statement yesterday that it is dropping the High Court legal review because it now accepts the Manpower Minister's decision on the dismissal.

In 2013, the church fired the female church worker because of her alleged adulterous relationship with another married church worker.

The church did not give the woman, who was then in her late 30s, the salary and maternity benefits she was entitled to under the Employment Act.

The woman had complained to MOM and then Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin ordered the church to pay her about $7,000 in compensation.

The church paid up but subsequently took the case to the High Court to have Mr Tan's decision reviewed.

But yesterday, the church decided to withdraw its court application.

It said that it had initiated the High Court legal review to clarify "the boundaries under which a religious body such as FCBC is able to conduct its internal affairs in managing the organisation, subject to the applicable laws of the land".

But it added that the court process has given it access to documents including Mr Tan's affidavit on the grounds of the decision, and it has since "come to understand and recognise the rationale/basis for the (Manpower) Minister's decision based on the specific facts of this case".

"As a responsible religious body/corporate citizen of this nation, FCBC accepts the Minister's decision," the church added.

It noted that, while MOM takes the position that employment terms should be reasonable and should not govern the private lives of their employees unless it relates to job performance, it said that as a church it can apply moral conduct in its terms of employment "in appropriate circumstances" when the conduct affects how workers perform in their jobs.

Besides issuing the statement on its website and Facebook page yesterday, the church also took the unusual step of buying advertisement space to publish its statement in full in The Straits Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao today.

The 10,000-strong church headed by pastor Lawrence Khong is one of Singapore's largest independent churches.

Mr Khong, who is a pastor-magician, has attracted controversy in the past with his strong views on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

When contacted, MOM said it welcomes the church's decision not to pursue the case.

"Since FCBC has accepted Minister's decision and has withdrawn its case, we consider the matter closed," said an MOM spokesman.

But the case holds a lesson for employers, said the ministry. "MOM wishes to remind all employers of the importance of clearly communicating upfront to a prospective employee on his or her obligations under the contract, which must be reasonable and relevant to the requirements of the job."

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