Mis­treated at work? Don’t suf­fer in si­lence

Mes­sage from pro bono lawyer who helped duo win case for un­paid wages

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

Low-paid work­ers who feel they are be­ing ex­ploited have been urged to come for­ward and fight for their rights.

That was the mes­sage from Shi­raz Sethi, a lawyer who vol­un­teers at the pro bono clin­ics at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cen­tre (DIFC).

Sethi spoke to 7DAYS af­ter two of his clients won a case against their for­mer em­ployer who made them do his per­sonal chores, kept their pass­ports and paid their salary late each month.

Sethi said: “I reg­u­larly ad­vise in­di­vid­u­als who are un­able to af­ford le­gal ad­vice to ap­proach the pro bono clinic. It is a great av­enue for in­di­vid­u­als who do not have the fi­nan­cial means to seek the ad­vice of a lawyer to de­ter­mine how strong a claim they have and whether it is worth pur­su­ing.

“It pro­vides in­di­vid­u­als with a level of com­fort that they are not go­ing to waste money which they don’t have by fil­ing a claim with the Small Claims Tri­bunal.”

Sethi’s clients were em­ploy­ees at a restau­rant in DIFC, where they each earned Dhs2,000 per month. How­ever, they say their salaries were of­ten paid up to three weeks late.

The pair even­tu­ally ap­proached Sethi, from Stephen­son Har­wood Mid­dle East, who took on their case for free. Af­ter lodg­ing a com­plaint with DIFC Courts they emerged victorious. The court or­dered they re­ceive their out­stand­ing salary, gra­tu­ity and flight tick­ets home.

One of the clients, a 24-year-old who worked as a chef, said: “Shi­raz didn’t charge us a sin­gle penny for the case. So, we were able to fight for our rights.

“If other work­ers like us knew that there are lawyers who can help us for free and get our rights then em­ploy­ers might get a strong mes­sage about treat­ing their work­ers right.”

The worker added: “The boss wasn’t giv­ing us our pay slips, kept our pass­ports and was giv­ing us our salary re­ally late. I used to earn only Dhs2,000, I kept Dhs300 with me and I would send the rest home to In­dia be­cause I have a younger sib­lings I need to ed­u­cate. “But this man was caus­ing prob­lems for me and my fam­ily. “All of the staff had quit or been fired, so the owner was mak­ing us do ex­tra work.” Sethi’s other client, a 37-year-old In­dian ex­pat, said the em­ployer made him de­liver items to his fam­ily and made him clean the restau­rant - which was not part of his job. He claims the em­ployer also forged his sig­na­ture on a con­tract that said he had to pay Dhs4,000 for the de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle’s li­cence. “He wanted me to pay Dhs4,000 for the li­cence. Why would I pay for that? I never signed any con­tract. And my boss wasn’t giv­ing me my salary, so how would I be able to pay him any­thing? “He was mak­ing me de­liver water bot­tles to his house all the time and mak­ing me clean the restau­rant. My job only in­cluded de­liv­er­ing the food.” He re­ceived Dhs3,500 and the other worker re­ceived Dhs5,000. The pro-bono clin­ics in DIFC are open to work­ers who can­not af­ford le­gal ad­vice. For more in­for­ma­tion on pro-bono clin­ics email pro.bono@draa­cademy.ae.

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