Sacked for attending Bersih rally?
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 01 Jun 2012
I went to Bersih 3.0. But my boss saw my photo on Facebook and was very upset, as many of our clients are affiliated to the current Government. He called a department meeting and warned all of us that we cannot take part in such rallies in future, and says he is considering sacking me if we lose any clients over the next couple of months. I cannot afford to lose my job, as I have a family to support. Can he lawfully sack me? A Worker, via email
There is nothing he can do to you unless you were wearing a shirt with the Company’s logo and blatantly showing it off on photographs or video recordings, or if you attended the Bersih rally when you were supposed to be at work. But it being a Saturday we doubt you would have been working that day.
Therefore, we are assuming that your attendance at the rally was on your own private time, on what is supposed to be a rest day. As a general proposition an employee’s private conduct is only a concern of the employer if some legitimate interest of the employer is injured of jeopardised – for example if it tarnishes the image or reputation of the employer.
If you are sacked for the reasons you explained in your email to us, you are at liberty to lodge a representation that you have been unfairly dismissed at the Industrial Relations Office nearest to your place of employment.
The representations are made under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act, and the claim is for reinstatement. It is quite simple, just find out where the nearest Industrial Relations Office is, and fill up a form there. They will write to your employer to fix a conciliation meeting to discuss the matter together with an Industrial Relations Officer. This is a fairly informal meeting, and parties are very much discouraged from bringing lawyers for the meeting.
At the meeting, a few things could happen. You will either be reinstated, paid a settlement sum as compensation for loss of employment, or if no settlement is reached the matter will be escalated to the Minister, who will then decide whether your case is fit for reference to the Industrial Court.
If it is referred to the Industrial Court, then your case will be fought there. Malaysian courts can be fairly unpredictable at times, but if the facts are as clear as you have stated in your email, and bearing in mind that the Industrial Court is usually pro-employee, Lord Bobo can confidently say that your employer will get a spanking if the case reaches this stage. In practice, maximum payouts for unfair dismissal can go as high as 24 months salary.