The Filipino Times 13 July 2014

LEGAL FORUM: Hostile boss holds OFW’s passport to keep her from going home

The Filipino Times

By Staff Report Date posted: July 13, 2014

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In this issue, Atty. Al Bonghanoy, a senior counsel at Gulf Law Litigation Department in Dubai, the Philippines and United Kingdom, who is also a certified public accountant, offered his legal advice to our readers.

QUESTION: I am a client service executive at an insurance brokerage firm located in DMCC free zone. Last March, I decided to resign due to medical reasons. But my immediate boss refused to sign and acknowledge my resignation letter insisting that I must pay Dh10,000 (PhP118,360) for my visa expenses before he returns my passport.

My immediate superior has been shouting and humiliating me in front of my co-workers calling me stupid, and saying “he has a new slave.” He also asked me to forge clients’ signatures and documents.

I am so afraid and it’s against my will and I know it’s wrong. They have put me in a very difficult situation. I know in the end, the blame will all be on me as has always been the case while working for him.

After two months of working for the company, I developed abdominal pains, anxiety attacks and I even had a nervous breakdown. Hearing my immediate supervisor’s voice makes me shiver and uneasy. I had sleepless nights and finally decided to call it quits for medical reasons.

I don’t want to see him anymore. Some of my co-workers said tyrannical bosses are common in Dubai but I just can’t take it anymore. I think I need psychological evaluation and counseling. I do not have a medical insurance and I cannot afford to bear all my health-related expenses just relying on my salary.

All I want to do right now is go back to home and seek professional help. Please advice me what to do. How can I get back my passport from my immediate supervisor?

ANSWER: Your employer is not allowed to withhold your passport. You should send a demand letter to your employer compelling him to return your passport.

If you do not get a favorable response, you may request the Philippine Consulate or Embassy to issue a letter addressed to your employer.

Note that Philippine issued passports are considered property of the Philippine government. If your employer is adamant, you may request the court to issue an order against your employer. You can then request the police to enforce the court’s order to have your passport returned to you.

Employers are required to shoulder recruitment costs such as visa application fees, labour card and medical examination fees. It is against Article 6 of Ministerial Order 52 of 1989 to require employees to pay for these costs.

Regarding employment-related complaints, you will need to lodge a complaint with the labor department of the free zone where you are working. The free zone authorities will contact your employer to resolve the matter amicably.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may refer the matter to the Ministry of Labour (MOL). You cannot go directly to the courts without the endorsement from the MOL. Employees are exempt from the payment of court filing fees.

Seeking to return to Dubai.

QUESTION: A friend of mine went home to the Philippines in January 2011. However, he hasn’t paid his dues on credit cards. He wants to come back to Dubai but is afraid that police might arrest him upon landing at Dubai International Airport.

Is it safe for him to come back here? Please advice.

ANSWER: Your friend should contact the bank to know the status of his credit card obligations. If the bank has already filed a police case, your friend should settle it first before going to the UAE.

Otherwise, he will be apprehended at the UAE immigration. There are many available options to settle a pending obligation with the bank. It is important though to secure a settlement agreement signed and sealed by the bank.

If the bank has not yet filed a police case, your friend will be able to enter the UAE without any problem. Upon entering the UAE, he should try to secure an out-of-court settlement with the bank immediately so he will not face any criminal prosecution in the future.

Normally, banks will agree to a longer payment term if your friend can provide proof of income such as an employment contract (or offer letter in case his employment is still on process).

Finally, note that tourist or visit visa approval does not mean that your friend has no pending police case.

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