I need some advice on how to force an employer to pay me my severance pay.
I’ve worked at a small English buxiban in Taipei for nearly two years. Recently the boss terminated my contract. They didn’t mention anything about severance pay. When I looked at my contract and the Labor Standards Act, I discovered I was legally entitled to a substantial sum, that was proportional to the length of time I had been employed at the school. I notified my boss and he got angry. Then I was contacted by the company’s general manager - a separate person to my boss at the school. I was persuaded to attend a meeting with my boss and the general manager to discuss the severance. At the meeting they produced a printout in Chinese from what looked like a website for calculating Taiwanese severance pay, with a figure for the severance pay that was significantly lower than what I had been expecting. They explained that this was because severance was calculated from the starting date of the contract being terminated; although I had worked at the school for almost two years, my contracts were only for one-year stretches. Thus I had completed one year long contract and been terminated towards the end of the second, and they claimed that only the time in the second contract counted towards calculating severance pay. The figure on this printout was circled, and the general manager then scrawled ‘we agree to this severance pay’ and signed and dated the paper with a ballpoint pen. I was then pressured into signing the same piece of paper. We did the same thing with another identical copy of the printout, which was given to me.
I have since discovered that they were lying - severance pay IS calculated from the TOTAL length of time worked at the company, not just from the single yearly contract being cut short. So according to my original contract and the Labor Standards Act, I should get a lot more than the sum specified on the printout I have. I have requested a mediated meeting at the Labor Department in City Hall to try and get this larger sum.
My question is: which is more important in determining what the company should pay me - the printout that I and the general manager agreed to and signed, or my original work contract plus the Labor Standards Act? It’s true I signed the printout with the lower sum. But if they lied and intimidated me into signing it, does it count? (It was a pretty nasty meeting.) And would a printout of a smaller figure, with ‘we agree to this sum’ and two signatures written on it, override my original work contracts, which clearly state that I can only be dismissed in accordance with the Labor Standards Act? I’ve seen mention on these forums of some people using the Labor Standards Act to get severance pay even after they had signed contracts saying they weren’t entitled to it, or were entitled to less. Is this possible? Or am I just screwed?
I would also be interested in hearing any stories of English teachers’ severance pay disputes settled by Labor Department mediation. Is this an effective method? What are the mediators like? Are rulings consistent, or is it a crapshoot? Do companies often abide by the rulings?
Thanks in advance.