Employees May Not Be Fired for Insulting Boss, Says Court

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Before you all erupt in either glee or rage (depending on your position), please be aware there are two conditions for applying this rule: (1) you must be in Malaysia, and (2) the insulting must be done behind your supervisor’s back.

Probably, condition #1 will be the obstacle for most of you.

Malaysia’s Industrial Court, which handles workplace grievances, ruled on December 8 that a secretary at the National Insurance Board was not guilty of misconduct for sending emails from her office computer to friends, even though the emails contained "derogatory, insolent and impertinent" words about her supervisors.  The emails allegedly came to light only as a result of an unrelated investigation into the leak of a confidential report, but the secretary was fired for "misconduct" based on the emails.

The secretary, Ratnawati Mohamed Nawawi, who has a name that at first seems difficult but is actually fun to say if you march around the office chanting it, appealed her termination to the Industrial Court.  Court chairman Syed Ahmad Radzi Syed Omar, whose name is so long that his parents forgot they had already named him "Syed" once, agreed with Ratnawati that her words were not "misconduct" because they were not meant to undermine her superiors, but rather were merely gossip between friends. The report did not quote the emails Ratnawati sent, but the court’s rationale makes the content of the emails irrelevant:

The court agrees that if those derogatory, insolent and impertinent [words] are used toward the superior officers directly it would construe a serious misconduct on the part of Ratnawati. But if those words or language are only used behind their backs and only between a few friends it would not be a misconduct. Those words are not meant to be heard by the senior officers.

They certainly aren’t. The court also noted that boss-griping is an entirely natural phenomenon:

It is quite common and natural for staff to gossip about their superior officers. It can happen anywhere and anytime . . . it could be over coffee or tea or a meal [, or outside during a break, or while huddling under your desk, or between people in adjoining bathroom stalls, or while jointly peering out of an air duct you’ve crawled into that overlooks the boss’s desk, or in a homemade fallout shelter that doesn’t have room for the rest of the staff so you might as well stop pounding on the door, and so on].

It just happened to be on email in this case. The court awarded Ratnawati back wages and compensation totaling 66,850 ringgit, which as you know is about 18,570 U.S. dollars. It did say that the company did not have to give Ratnawati her job back, since "the trust between her and her employer was broken."

Link: AP via Yahoo! News