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last school didn't pay me severance (bonus pay)... sue?
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chaz47



Joined: 11 Sep 2003

PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:33 pm    Post subject: last school didn't pay me severance (bonus pay)... sue? Reply with quote

I finished a contract for a hagwon a few months back and they didn't give me any pension reimbursement, or what the titled "bonus pay".

In my third month of employment there I noticed a mysterious lack in my check to the tune of 190,000 won or so. I asked about it and I was informed that that was "saving for bonus pay". I was then told that when I complete my contract, they will return this money to me. Which they did, but... on what planet does "bonus pay" mean, we are going to with-hold money and then return it to you.

After I asked about the pay discrepancy it actually began showing up on my pay statement as "saving for Bonus Pay".

I understood shortly after that, that the money was blackmail/insurance to keep teachers like myself in check as the manager has two styles... stonewall and scream. The contract also had a rather draconian clause for early withdrawal. So, I kept my head down and did my work.

At the end of the contract I asked the manager point-blank why I didn't get any pension or how "bonus pay" equals a deduction to be returned at a later date. Stonewall, then laughter, then "good luck... you won't be getting that money".

As per my contract, the language of which is English, upon completion I was entitled to a 13th payment equal to my monthly average. I even got the head instructor to mediate, they informed the head instructor that I simply "made too much money". So, in effect I am penalized for all the overtime they made me work.

I have copies of all my documents (contract, pay statements) on hand now, including the bank account (still active) I held during the previous contract.

Is it worth contacting the authorities for 2.3 million or so won? Who should I contact first? Labour Board? Immigration?
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randall020105



Joined: 08 Apr 2008
Location: the land of morning confusion...

PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:49 pm    Post subject: severance witheld = illegal Reply with quote

withholding severance = illegal.
You may want to speak to more seasoned folk around here. Try talking to TTompatz - he's really the one-stop-shop for anything ESL related in Korea really.

I don't know if you signed anything allowing them to deduct money for your bonus, but legally, all people on E2's are supposed to get a severance check at the end of their contract.

R.
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iggyb



Joined: 29 Oct 2003

PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Contact the labor board first and also look for a lawyer willing to make calls for you. You might get lucky and find one. I have before.

Often just a call from a lawyer or the labor board can get the boss moving in your direction. It's harder since you no longer work there, but you have a case if you have to follow through with the labor board.

It doesn't matter if he signed anything agreeing to taking out pay each month to equal the completion bonus. A contract can't have clauses that violate labor law, and labor law says you get the month's pay at the end of your standard 12-month contract.

They can't tax your pay in order to build up enough money to equal that 13th month's pay.

The line about making too much money is hillarious. I forget the exact formula, but the 13th month's pay is equal to the number of years you have worked there x your average gross pay the last three months of employment. So, if you worked much overtime and got fat checks the last three months, you're completion bonus will be bigger than the base monthly pay stated in your contract.

One thing, pension is something completely different from the completion "bonus".

You have to apply for the pension refund at your local pension office.

The school should have been taking out X% of your paycheck, then adding to it an equal amount out of their own pocket, and then sent both to the pension account. I think it is 4.5% for each and 9% total. That is a nice chunk of money when you leave.

If they are breaking the law on completion pay, don't be surprised if they were cheating on pension too.

I'm not sure how that works -- if you can go through the labor board or pesion office to force them to pay the 4.5% they should have been adding to what they should have been taking out of your pay.

I do know they will be in trouble with the pension office.

Oh - not every expat is able to get the pension money back. Some of the countries TESOLers commonly come from don't have an agreement with Korea on that. If you are from the US, you should get it.
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Troglodyte



Joined: 06 Dec 2009

PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, go to the labor board and report it. The employer has 14 days to pay it. If not, they get fined and it goes on their record.

If that doesn't work then call the Seoul Global Center.
http://global.seoul.go.kr/
They can give you legal advice for free.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going to the Ministry of Labor office for the district where you worked should do the trick. I had a former employer who didn't get around to paying my severance pay for many months. I finally wrote to them and said they needed to get on the stick and let me know when they would pay. No response. So, after a few days, I contacted the Ministry of Labor office for their district and filed my complaint, a meeting was set up where their representative had to come to a couple of weeks later and explain why they hadn't paid my severance pay yet. He came and explained why. They didn't like any of his BS answers and they ordered him to pay by a certain date (a couple weeks later).

I said to the Labor guy, "but what if he doesn't pay as ordered?" The labor guy just held out his arms in front of him with his 2 wrists touching.

Free legal counseling is also available through the Global Center for Foreigners.

Cheers and good luck.
PS. I did read in the Korea Times last year that they were going to (should have started by now) start requiring employers to set aside an amount monthly in a special account so they would have the funds available to pay severance pay on time when it is due. I guess that's because so many hagwon owners have so much difficulty setting aside funds to get this done ontime. However, that obviously would have nothing to do (logically speaking anyway) with them actually withholding money from your pay every month.
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ttompatz



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Location: Kwangju, South Korea

PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:20 am    Post subject: Re: last school didn't pay me severance (bonus pay)... sue? Reply with quote

chaz47 wrote:
I finished a contract for a hagwon a few months back and they didn't give me any pension reimbursement, or what the titled "bonus pay".

In my third month of employment there I noticed a mysterious lack in my check to the tune of 190,000 won or so. I asked about it and I was informed that that was "saving for bonus pay". I was then told that when I complete my contract, they will return this money to me. Which they did, but... on what planet does "bonus pay" mean, we are going to with-hold money and then return it to you.

After I asked about the pay discrepancy it actually began showing up on my pay statement as "saving for Bonus Pay".

I understood shortly after that, that the money was blackmail/insurance to keep teachers like myself in check as the manager has two styles... stonewall and scream. The contract also had a rather draconian clause for early withdrawal. So, I kept my head down and did my work.

At the end of the contract I asked the manager point-blank why I didn't get any pension or how "bonus pay" equals a deduction to be returned at a later date. Stonewall, then laughter, then "good luck... you won't be getting that money".

As per my contract, the language of which is English, upon completion I was entitled to a 13th payment equal to my monthly average. I even got the head instructor to mediate, they informed the head instructor that I simply "made too much money". So, in effect I am penalized for all the overtime they made me work.

I have copies of all my documents (contract, pay statements) on hand now, including the bank account (still active) I held during the previous contract.

Is it worth contacting the authorities for 2.3 million or so won? Who should I contact first? Labour Board? Immigration?


There are a couple of violations of labor law.

The "forced" savings part was outright illegal and in fact explicitly prohibited under labor law.

The lack of your "severance" is another outright violation of labor law.

The labor board would be your first stop. Take proof in the way of your contract, pay stubs and bankbook.

It may take a while but if you are staying in Korea you CAN get blood out of this stone eventually.

.
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iggyb



Joined: 29 Oct 2003

PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has labor board rulings become legally binding?

That might be one of the changes from the old days the first time I was in Korea. Back then, labor boards were more like arbitrators. Occasionally a hakwon would simply refuse to abide by the ruling, and what people said back then was that you had little to no recourse after that...
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viciousdinosaur



Joined: 30 Apr 2012

PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's pretty slimy. They for sure broke the law. But seriously you waited this long to deal with this? If it was me I would have read the labor law immediately (I actually did my first year. I was working very long hours).

Please do yourself and anyone else who might work there in the future a favor and bring this hagwon down. Go the labor board and get your money, but then go to the local Ministry of Education and rat them out. If it turns into an investigation, they could lose their license.

Hell, I'll even help you find the Ministry of Education and go there with you.

This is bigger than us. This is fighting for our rights.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

iggyb wrote:
Has labor board rulings become legally binding?

That might be one of the changes from the old days the first time I was in Korea. Back then, labor boards were more like arbitrators. Occasionally a hakwon would simply refuse to abide by the ruling, and what people said back then was that you had little to no recourse after that...


Once again, since you asked, I said to the Labor guy, "but what if he doesn't pay as ordered?" The labor guy just held out his arms in front of him with his 2 wrists touching.

Also, they don't mind levying large fines against stalling, law-breaking employers.
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iggyb



Joined: 29 Oct 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Once again, since you asked


Pardon me if I wanted a more substantial confirmation than your limited word about what a guy at the labor board said - even if he worked there.

You should look around too to check if what that one guy said was correct.

If you go around the ESL industry in Korea taking everyone's word for things, you're in for a rough ride...
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ttompatz



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Location: Kwangju, South Korea

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The labor board does have teeth.
Whether or not they choose to use them is another matter (this isn't Kansas).

The specifics are in the enforcement section of the LSA and related acts.

.
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chaz47



Joined: 11 Sep 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone have contact information for the Labor Board? Can I email them copies of all the documents?
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YTMND



Joined: 16 Jan 2012
Location: You're the man now dog!!

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chaz47 wrote:
Anyone have contact information for the Labor Board?


1345 or try 1345

The above two might not work, so try 1345

In case the above 3 don't work, try google. They always update strange irregularities in the system.

Right now, it shows 1345

If you are new to the internet, I would suggest a tutorial.

If you are from the past, please note which year you are posting from.


Last edited by YTMND on Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:38 am; edited 3 times in total
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iggyb



Joined: 29 Oct 2003

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should be able to find a list online for all the local labor board locations.

Make copies of all the documents and keep the originals until you know you have to turn them over to a board or something. You don't want to lose control of the originals.
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Troglodyte



Joined: 06 Dec 2009

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't mind YTMND. He just likes to push peoples buttons and give them wrong information. We suspect that he actually gets off on causing problems for people.

I'm not sure how up-to-date this list is but it's probably a good staring point.
http://wiki.galbijim.com/Korean_Labor_Offices

Or you can call them. The REAL phone number is 1350. Unless things have changed, you'll get an automated menu. Press 5, then press 1 to get someone who speaks English.



YTMND wrote:
chaz47 wrote:
Anyone have contact information for the Labor Board?


1345 or try 1345

The above two might not work, so try 1345

In case the above 3 don't work, try google. They always update strange irregularities in the system.

Right now, it shows 1345

If you are new to the internet, I would suggest a tutorial.

If you are from the past, please note which year you are posting from.
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