She actually showed up on time this time. This hearing was just about the overtime. Before we started, the labor inspector hung out with us, asking me questions about Atlanta, particularly the Braves.
It was another surreal hearing, though not as surreal as the other ones. We turned in our evidence. I had records and testimonies proving what I had worked in the morning. My only problem was that I didn’t have much proving my afternoon hours since I usually stayed later than any other teacher.
Unnamed Hagwon Owner helped me out with that. She turned in schedules to use against me. What she turned in was as sheet that showed that I had a full, full, full afternoon schedule with no breaks. She actually helped me.
The other thing she turned in was weird. We had to turn in notes every day. The notes showed if anything was unusual or needed in any class. Such as, if someone didn’t show up regularly in my 5:00 class, I’d write about it. If nothing happened, we didn’t write anything. Unnamed Hagwon Owner tried to prove that I didn’t work until 7:00 because she had no notes past 5:30. She also used an old schedule from August I wrote myself when Unnamed Hagwon Owner was absent for two months.
This was hilarious. For one thing, she could easily have taken out any notes I had written for post-5:30 classes. Also, the notes were just notes. They weren’t time schedules. They were distractions.
I pointed that out to the inspector. She was wasting our time. While the inspector was figuring out what to make of the notes, I took the schedule Unnamed Hagwon Owner had turned in and pointed to it.
“Look. I worked until seven o’clock.”
A few breaks were taken during the hearing. During this time, I did have another glance at the tax records Unnamed Hagwon Owner had turned in. There definitely wasn’t any official stamp on them.
The inspector showed me the document he had typed up. Eun Jeong and Friend-Lee looked it over and translated it for me. I approved it with signatures, fingerprints, and even writing something in Korean.
Basically, it was the final thing to do. It seems that everything we have claimed will pass the Labor Board and head to the courts. Unnamed Hagwon Owner also gave a nervous laugh when Eun Jeong mentioned we were going to report to the Seoul Tax Office.
I recorded this one in two parts. The recorder was in my shirt pocket. I didn’t record the big break we took. It’s amusing how Friend-Lee calls Unnamed Hagwon Owner “The Asshole” each time he refers to her. You can hear me insisting that Unnamed Hagwon Owner prove everything and doing what I can to take control of the hearing, as in, preventing Unnamed Hagwon Owner from doing her silly distractions.
We celebrated a bit at Irish Dream in downtown Anyang. Friend-Lee is on the right, wearing his Scottish gear.
We still have a long way to go. This isn’t just a complaint anymore. It’s a court case. But for this phase, I have learned a few things.
ADVICE FOR FOREIGNERS HAVING PROBLEMS WITH THEIR BOSSES
BEFORE ANYTHING HAPPENS – It’s always wise to play it safe. Even if you don’t expect any problems, behave as if you’re preparing for the worst case scenario.
- Keep your contract and all documents – Make sure it is a signed copy. The documents also include pay slips (demand them), schedules (photocopy each one), memos, and any piece of paper on your desk or on the board
- Make friends – That’s just common sense. Don’t be an ass. Don’t insulate yourself with foreigners. Make Korean friends. You will need them if you have any trouble with the law, and the Korean friends (and foreigner friends) I have would do anything to help me.
- Don’t do anything stupid – Don’t give the boss anything to use against you in a case, like showing up to work drunk, yelling at kids, showing up late. In fact, try to go the year without taking any sick days. You are entitled to extra money if you do that. Really.
WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS – Now that you’ve covered your butt, you need to cover it even more.
- Get a negotiator – Before you even go to the Labor Office, get a negotiator. The counselors at the Free Legal Counseling Center in Seocho (near Gangnam) could help you with that. The thing is, you need to get one before you file with the Labor Office. Otherwise, they won’t be able to help you beyond giving advice. Negotiators are useful for informing employers of the law and suggesting they better pay up quickly before it gets too far.
- List and detail your grievances – Order everything you are owed. Think of every single thing. In negotiations, you can sacrifice a few things. After you’ve done that, figure out how you can give evidence for everything. That’s where photocopying schedules and memos comes in handy.
- Get written testimonies – If a person can’t be at the Labor Office with you, get a written testimony. Remember all those people you didn’t piss off? That’s where they come in. You will find who your real friends are, if anything. In Korea, all a person needs to do is sign and fingerprint his testimony. Outside of Korea, your friend needs to do whatever notarization is required in that country.
- Network to get a good reliable interpreter – There is no way you can do the Labor Office without an interpreter — and a good one at that. Be prepared and willing to pay him. Also, it’s an unfortunate truth that male interpreters give you more gravitas. Reliability is more important than anything, though. All the interpreters we had were thankfully very reliable.
- Study the Labor Standards Act – Find each and every little thing the employer violated. Also find each and every little thing you can’t claim.
- Get records from government offices – With a Korean friend, go to the Tax Office, Pension Office, and the bank. Get records of the taxes and pensions paid in your name. If they haven’t been paid, it’s something else to sue the employer for. At the bank, get a statement detailing everything that’s happened in your account since you started working for your employer. Highlight any activities involving the employer, like wages.
- Be firm with the Labor Office – Labor inspectors are rude to everyone. That’s what one of the negotiators we talked to said. The guy we had was short on patience and took multitudes of smoke breaks. It’s easy to get into the zone and let the Koreans argue the case. Likely, your interpreter will want to argue for you, which is okay. But do what you can to take control of the hearing. Demand to know everything that is being talked about. Point out errors in logic (that works very well). Also, be on time. If the employer is late, point it out.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid – Your employer will conjure smoke and mirrors to distract the inspector from the basics of the case. Keep your case simple, as in, “The contract shows I worked a full year. I deserve my severance.” “The employer took money to pay for bills I never saw. I want to see those bills.” Many things the employer will bring up, like being late for class or absent or approving money to be taken out for bills, needs to be proven by the employer. Remind the inspector that the employer has to prove everything he claims. The inspector is way overworked. Likely, he will show you the pile of cases he has to go through. Cases have to be closed within two months. If you keep things simple while your employer creates the overly complex plot to an Aaron Spelling series (one from the ’90s), the inspector will likely choose your story.
- Thank everyone – Many people will go out of their way to help you. Thank them. When this is over, I want to throw a big party for everyone involved, including the labor inspector.
Like I said, this isn’t over yet. We’re still trying to figure out how to get freezing injunctions against Unnamed Hagwon’s properties and bank accounts. We also have to get the ball rolling on the discovery phase of the court procedure.