Epangelia Kiamu gives a report on the following below:
This is long, but please take time to read, please.
Early in January, I was tasked with renewing official documents that had gotten expired that was needed for running the business this 2019. During said period a colleague Thomas Sekey, who was the graphic designer lost his father. He was told by our boss that he can leave to attend the funeral rites of his father but his days out lof the office would be taken from his upcoming annual leave and it was agreed upon and Thomas left. When he got back, he was told that an amount would be deducted from his salary for not coming to work when he was expected despite being told his time away from work would be considered as part of his annual leave.
When the documents were ready, we received calls to come pick them and another colleague went for them. On getting to the office, my colleague Rachel Dargba showed me the certificate and I told her keep them on our boss desk which she did. Somehow, that certificate was never seen again. We were accused of misplacing said document and asked to get a new one.
I called the ministry that the missing document had been issued after several thorough search through the office proved the document missing and was told the minister that needed to sign the documents was out of the country and we were issue a photocopy that the ministry had on file. When our boss asked how far we had gone with getting her missing document we informed her and gave her the photocopy one to use in the meantime. Our boss refused to take the copy of the certificate.
While all this was going on, Thomas the graphic designer, designed a client’s business card which had a spelling error. Usually work is shown to clients in soft copy for edits to be done before being printed but somehow this error was so minute our boss who previewed the work and the client them self did not notice it until the work was printed.
When the error was noticed post printing, the client refused the work and our boss said Thomas would pay for the mistake from his salary.
So when we were to get paid, Thomas got 80$USD cut from his salary and Rachel was asked if I had told her that I had been told that she and I would not receive our salaries until the original document that had gone missing could be gotten from the ministry that issued it. I was stunned.
Firstly, I had not once been told that our salaries would be withheld on these grounds and secondly I felt there was no grounds whatsoever for money that was due us, be held on such a fickle matter especially since a new one was going to be issued upon the minister’s arrival back into the country.
And when I was told of how much had been cut from Thomas’s salary and why, I was heart broken. The salaries were already not enough to start with and to get a cut of such epic proportions was just unjust. I too got a salary cut for leaving the office on Valentine’s Day and not returning to work after I had been verbally assaulted for an email that never did come to me but went to my boss instead which she claimed came to me. When five minutes after the assault I received a new message notification that showed she had forwarded the email to me, I was tempted to break a lot of things. To safeguard myself from a lawsuit, I picked the pieces of my broken, humiliated heart and left the office.
So when all this got to me on Friday as I had attended my uncle’s funeral and didn’t go to work, I knew I could not continue with this job as it had taken just way too much from me. Sadly I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. On Friday we reached out to director in charge of issuing the missing document and told her what was unfolding and she asked for our boss number to speak with her.
On Saturday we all headed to work, to plead with our boss to pay us as we were so terribly broke and to beg that Thomas salary cut be returned to him and then we would leave as the situation at the office had gotten next to unbearable for over four months. But our boss had no intentions of coming to the office on Saturday and we had no intentions of working. We waited until after 12pm to see if she would come and when it was obvious she wasn’t, we shut down the office and went home.
A little while after leaving the office, we were informed that our boss was on her way to the office after being informed that we had left. We had a lean troubling, broke and upset weekend and on Monday bright and early we were on our way to the labor ministry to make enquiries on how to proceed with the unjust treatments that had been meted out on us. After getting the necessary information from labor ministry we headed to the ministry that issued the missing document to beg the director to help us get the document asap so we could get our salaries. The director said she had called our boss several times during the weekend to speak to her on our behalf but her calls went unanswered to which our boss claimed she had not received or seen any calls from the director.
Thankfully the minister had returned Sunday and the director out of pity to our plight, went begging him to please sign the document so we could take it to our office and get our salaries which he agreed to do but had more pressing matters and had to postpone it to the next day. The director then begged our boss to release our salaries that she would hand deliver the certificate herself. Our boss said we should go for our salaries.
When we left the ministry, we printed Thomas’s letter requesting refund of his salary and then headed to the office. When we got there, our boss asked Rachel while she was not in office that day and Rachel said because she(boss) needed her certificate and we had been pursuing it and our boss said that should not have happened on office time although government office hours are same as we are in office. Rachel was asked to tender in her resignation along with Thomas and another staff. I was told that since my leave had begun that Monday, I would not be dealt with until I returned to work.
Thomas was then told that he had a writ of arrest on him for stealing documents and we were all stupefied. We got paid, Thomas gave his request for refund letter and was told he wouldn’t be getting a dime and that he should tender in his resignation also and to stay behind as he was to go to jail. I informed my boss then that I wouldn’t be returning back to the office and she said she suggests that I put it in writing to which I said my time of employment had been oral and thus my resignation would be oral. We were told that if we didn’t write the letters of resignation, our names would be placed in the papers with our pictures that no one should do business with us in the name of the entity as it’ll be at their detriment. We said no problems, she should go ahead and post it and with that we all left the office.
On Monday March 4, the entire staff except the one month old cleaner on probation resigned from the office. We were six in all. On Tuesday, went to labor court and handled different businesses in town and got back home. Yesterday, Wednesday we were out when we got a call that sheriffs from the circuit court was looking for Thomas to issue him a writ. When we got home we immediately spoke with several lawyers concerning what to do.
This morning after waiting for three hours and not seeing any sheriff coming around, we headed to the Monrovia circuit court where Thomas had been issued a writ of arrest on the grounds of theft of property (documents) worth 30,000 USD. To say I was dazed is an understatement. The claims were that he taken documents off the office computer, put them on a flash drive and deleted them. I know for a fact that Thomas did nothing of such and thus began one of the most adrenaline packed days of my life. Thomas had a bond of over 60,000 USD if not he goes to jail and way too many persons were ready to exploit the situation.
We ended up getting him released on a much smaller and affordable bond to be present in court tomorrow. All the while, the computer that has all the evidence is still in the custody of the boss where we previously worked. We have been reaching out to lawyers who can help us and this innocent child in proving his innocence. Our resignation on the grounds of wrongful labor practiceswhich was refuted by our boss was covered by ELBC 7:00 pm news today.
We don’t know what tomorrow would bring but hope with morning would come justice for Thomas. I do not intend to stop after this case is handled and done with.
Liberia is riffed with so many labor malpractice that never comes to light because employees are scared of loosing their jobs.
Verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, threats, illegal salary deductions, very hostile working environment and countless others are what Liberians face at the hands of fellow Liberians in their employ. Please share this if you can, and if our situation at the moment touches you. Please reach out to me and inbox for any questions you may have. As we struggle to prove Thomas’s innocent against such erroneous claims at the hands of an employer he served diligently for a year please keep us in your prayers.