Workplace abuse is 'boorish behaviour'

Workplace abuse is 'boorish behaviour'
 

The incident of a young employee of an IT software firm being hit repeatedly by his boss is a stark reminder of the need to protect the rights of workers and fight for decent treatment.

This was the view shared by National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How yesterday.

Abusive boss punched, pushed, slapped intern

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    An IT company manager who carried out a campaign of abuse against an intern was yesterday sentenced to a 10-day short detention order.

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    The community sentence is served in prison, but carries no criminal record.

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    A judge said that Lee Yew Nam, 45, the manager of Encore eServices, had used 32-year-old Calvin Chan Meng Hock like a "punching bag" - slapping and hitting him during a string of violent outbursts when he felt his work was not up to standard.

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    He was caught when another intern took a 17-second video of him hitting Mr Chan, and posted it online.

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    Lee was convicted of four charges of causing hurt to Mr Chan at his Jurong Town Hall Road office between January and May 2013.

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    Two other charges of causing hurt and using abusive words were considered in sentencing.

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    The victim.

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    The victim speaking to a reporter.

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    A relative of the victim speaking to a reporter.

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    The family had previously asked for $100,000 in compensation.

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    The court was told that in January 2013, Lee slapped Mr Chan once in the face for failing to neatly arrange several software files in a computer.

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    The following month, he punched Mr Chan in the face several times, then pushed him off his chair, as he believed the intern had failed to correctly answer a customer's request.

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    On May 14, 2013, Lee grabbed Mr Chan's chin and forcefully pulled it back after finding out he had forgotten to delete files from a database.

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    The abuse that was caught on camera took place the next day, after Lee went through a conversation log between Mr Chan and a customer.

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    Some netizens who are more sceptical have pointed out that it is unlikely for a person to remain quiet while being attacked.

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    Lee felt Mr Chan had failed to perform his work well, and questioned him. When Mr Chan gave him an explanation deemed unsatisfactory, he became increasingly agitated and started to shout at the younger man. Lee then punched him in the head before slapping him three times.

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    In passing sentence, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said the 10-day SDO imposed would be sufficient to deter like-minded employers from laying their hands on their employees.

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    He said in a description put up with the original post: "I had just started an internship and noticed my supervisor constantly bullying my co-worker in the workplace.

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    "A strong message must be conveyed to all employers that such brutish behaviour has no place in our civilised society," he said.

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    "It must be made clear to all employers that an employee, no matter how low his position in the company is, is an important member of the company and not a punching bag, not even for stressed-out employers."

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    The judge considered Lee's clean record, his plea of guilt, albeit at a late stage on the first day of his trial, his $5,000 voluntary compensation and the fact that he was suffering from a depressive disorder.

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    However, he said he could not ignore the fact that what Lee had done was a serious matter. "As a responsible employer, he has a duty to have regard for the well-being and welfare of his employees.

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    "Instead, he subjected the victim to physical hurt and verbal abuse on numerous occasions, once in 2010/2011, and five other occasions from January to May of 2013."

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    Lee's lawyer Diana Ngiam successfully applied for her client to start his sentence on April 8. The maximum penalty for causing hurt is two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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    A special hearing was held earlier this year to determine IT company manager Lee Yew Nam's sentence after he was convicted of four charges of physically abusing a subordinate several times in 2013.

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    The defence asserted that the 45-year-old was suffering from a major depressive disorder at the time, and that it contributed to his offending behaviour.

In a Facebook post, he said that the need applies to both rank-and-file workers and professionals, managers and executives.

Mr Heng said there are proper ways to address the issue of workers who cannot perform at their jobs. "Beating up workers clearly crosses the line. Such boorish workplace behaviour cannot be condoned in Singapore," he said.

He urged the police and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to "help the victim seek recourse and press for deterrent action against the culprit".

The incident was brought to light after a video apparently showing an older man slapping the 29-year-old university graduate was uploaded on YouTube and went viral. The 17-second video was filmed by a co-worker.

Chinese evening newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday that the victim's parents confronted the abuser at software company Encore eServices.

The man apologised profusely but the victim's parents were not appeased, it added.

A family member apparently asked if he could pay $100,000 in compensation.

The family member claimed that the figure was based on a graduate's $1,000 starting pay for the first year, plus an increment of $500 every month starting from the second year, plus bonuses and unpaid leave.

Wanbao reported that the victim was an intern with the company for three years. He was paid $500 a month, with no annual leave entitlement and year-end bonuses.

MOM had earlier said that it is aware of the matter and is in touch with the employee who recorded the video.

A police report has been lodged, but My Paper understands that no arrest has been made. A police spokesman said the matter is being looked into.

joyfang@sph.com.sg


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