Mr Coconut brings tea & receipts: Woman fired for reasons other than pregnancy, watched movie on phone at work

The F&B business responded formally to the woman's public complaint alleging unfair termination.

Belmont Lay | February 08, 2024, 01:04 PM



Local F&B business Mr Coconut has issued an official response to a woman who took to social media on Jan. 18, 2024 to complain that she was unfairly sacked after informing the company that she was pregnant.

Mr Coconut shared its formal investigations in a Facebook post on Feb. 7 detailing the events that led to the woman's firing.

In the post's caption, Mr Coconut wrote: "In relation to a recent Facebook post published by Ms Charissa Tan regarding the alleged circumstances surrounding her termination, we have concluded our investigations."

"As promised, in the spirit of transparency, we publish our full investigation findings to the public," the company added.

What woman alleged

This was after Tan had alleged in her written post: "This is definitely my definition of unfair dismissal and discrimination to pregnant woman in the work force."

Her opening salvo saw her question: "Is it wrong to be pregnant? Is it a crime to be a woman?"

In her post, Tan alleged that when she was terminated, she was told she displayed "poor performance" at work, despite her direct manager previously informing her that she was doing "fine".

She recounted the events leading up to the meeting where she was told her employment would be terminated.

Tan said she took unpaid leave as she had Covid-19, but managed to clear her backlog in two days upon returning to work.

She said there was a day when she was feeling unwell and rested her head against her desk. She said that a HR person told her she should go home if she was feeling unwell, but said she stayed at work since it was near the end of the work day and she did not want to take more unpaid leave despite feeling feverish.

She said she had rested her head on her desk on other days, but said this was during her lunch hour.

She alleged she was subsequently fired after human resources convened a meeting with the bosses on Jan. 17.

What Mr Coconut revealed

According to Mr Coconut, the woman was on probation in the role of a customer service officer.

She had started work on Nov. 7, 2023, and her probationary stint was to last till Feb. 6, 2024.

Mr Coconut had offered to extend the termination notice period to one week, but Tan chose the one-day notice option, as per her contract.

Company sacked her before pregnancy made known

According to Mr Coconut's findings, Tan told the company about her pregnancy on Jan. 16.

Mr Coconut said it decided to terminate Tan's services on Jan. 15, and that a job advertisement for her role was posted online on the same day.

Mr Coconut provided a screenshot of the advertisement in its response.

Smoked at work

Mr Coconut added that "no one had any reason to believe or suspect" that Tan was pregnant at the time.

Surveillance footage the company reviewed showed Tan was "still heavily smoking", an activity she carried out more than three to four times a day, Mr Coconut revealed.

Took 12.5 days of leave while on probation

Addressing the complaint about Tan being faulted for taking multiple days of leave, Mr Coconut revealed that she had already taken 12.5 days of leave while on probabtion.

She would have been entitled to 14 days of annual leave after her probation period, the company added.

Watched movie while at work

Addressing Tan's complaint that she was penalised for resting her head on her desk because she was not feeling well at work, Mr Coconut said the woman had been watching a movie in office.

This occurred on Dec. 5 at around 10am, Mr Coconut said.

It provided screenshots of surveillance footage that showed a woman seated at her work desk with a phone propped up against her laptop.

Asked for S$53,000 compensation

Mr Coconut also revealed that Tan subsequently filed a complaint with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).

She was also attempting to claim from Mr Coconut a sum of S$53,000, which was said to be nearly 18 times her monthly remuneration of S$3,000, the company revealed.

According to Tan's termination notice, which Mr Coconut provided, the notice of termination was served to her without any reasons stated.

When Mr Coconut invited Tan to provide more information, she apparently declined and said she would not do so "without the presence of TADM".

Threatened to make "a big hooha"

Mr Coconut also shared a fuller screenshot of the exchange between Tan and her direct superior at work.

This was after Tan had made public in her own social media post some snippets of her correspondence with her superior.

In Mr Coconut's screenshot, it was revealed that Tan had texted, "I going to make this a big hooha", when told she would be contacted again about her termination.

No basis for 'grave allegations'

Mr Coconut concluded its response by writing: "Following Mr Coconut's investigations, we find no basis whatsoever to such grave allegations that Ms Charissa Tan had levelled against Mr Coconut."

It also asked Tan to "put forth her current allegations in the form of a statutory declaration".

A statutory declaration is a written statement of facts that is signed by the person making the statement, and which is solemnly declared to be true before a court, a judicial officer or a Commissioner for Oaths.

The company added that it remains open to engaging with Tan to further clarify matters.

Mr Coconut also wrote: "At this juncture, we would like to emphasise that, as an organisation, we take a firm stance against any form of discriminatory employment practices and will not shy away from dealing with any such allegations fairly and openly."

In response to Mothership's queries, Lucas Lin, one of the founders of Mr Coconut, said: "Our only comment is that we have and will continue to deal with this matter and with Ms Tan fairly, objectively and transparently."

"As to the merits of either side’s position, we will leave it to the public to draw their own conclusions."

Maternity protection in Singapore

In Singapore, an employee would qualify for maternity protection if they have worked for the employer for at least three months before receiving the notice of dismissal or retrenchment.

Maternity protection means that if a pregnant worker's employment is terminated "without sufficient cause", or if the pregnant worker is retrenched during her pregnancy, the employer must pay the maternity benefits that the worker would have been eligible for.

Employers are obligated by law to continue to pay an employee’s salary throughout her maternity leave as if she had been working without a break, and to not ask an employee to work during the first four weeks of her confinement.

Top photo via Mr Coconut