What are Some Common (Illegal) Things Employers Do to Foreign Workers?

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Hi Everyone,

I was watching "The Simpsons" and remember many of the jokes on labor unions.

More seriously, the more I read about Chinese Labor Law, the more I realize it might be beneficial, even for our Western countries. In the short term, it is far less efficient than the "at-will for all parties" that the US and other countries have. In the long run, however, I think it provides basic rules and protections that any workplace can follow, so no one gets deeply short-changed, the way the Industrial Revolution or Apartheid workers were.

Given our experience, what are some things that employers often do that are against labor laws, standard work policies, etc. I hope we can have some discussion and maybe formulate new answers for newcomers to China:

1. Asking for favors without the intention of returning.

This is the most common thing I see because it is so intangible.

At least in the Asian culture that I grew up in, and know, that if someone does a favor, it must be paid back immediately. There even have been instances where someone did something nice, but my relative kept offering them something (even money) because it would be disgraceful not to immediately do something back.

Sadly, I did have some employers who asked big favors but never returned it. For example, when three teachers were suddenly terminated, and one was stuck on a visa issue, I had to do the hours of three teachers. Even for about a month after, when that one teacher returned, I had to do his work.

That favor was not repaid. I was the only one laid off when budget cuts came.

Later, that school was reported to the police for many violations (tax evasion, fake visas, etc.) and arrests were made, that manager begged me for forgiveness and would offer me any sum I wanted to not pursue more action. I did not take any money, as that was not my point. Rather, I just did not like that favors were asked, with no intention of ever repaying.

I think even in Asian language, "doing a favor" means differently than it would be to another culture, think Sicilian.

Now, I fully understand any human relationship is about give and take. I forgive those who ask for favors, but cannot do a great favor when needed (e.g. "lay someone else off, since I helped you so much during nights, weekends, holidays."). Rather, it is the deliberate and wanton abuse of the favor system that bothers me.

2. Not telling every employee about social insurance and benefits that Chinese domestic workers get.

It was not until many years that I realize that 100% of workers, both Chinee nationals and expatriates, are entitled to the social benefits.

In my experience in Korea, those people do a far better job: every worker contributes to the National Medical Care, Severance Pay, Old Age Pension, etc.

In China, it seems like only expatriate teachers who know about it and strongly advocate for it are given it.

I almost feel like a sucker that I did not know about this until after about six or seven years teaching in China.

3. Not knowing employee discipline and termination policies.

Chinese labor law, which applies to both Chinese Nationals and Foreigners, says that an employee cannot get fired for simply poor performance, right?

Yes, someone who does something crazy, like workplace violence or drug use, would be fired in any country. But, the idea of "this guy does not make us happy, so we can get rid of him/her this month, or after the fall semester" is illegal, right?

4. As a corollary, this also applies to signing warning reports.

Only last year, I learned they cannot force anyone to do so.

Edgar Law in a Minute also states, that other companies also say things like "don't bother coming in tomorrow." That way, it creates a reason for them to terminate a teacher (AWOL), even if no reason previously existed.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2024, 05:09:05 AM by Ivyman »


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Re: What are Some Common (Illegal) Things Employers Do to Foreign Workers?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2024, 10:05:18 PM »
My original contract in China (2006) was via a couple of Saloon members who decided to become recruiters. (Don't worry - they are long gone and won't be coming back.)

The contract I had in China had penalties listed that were definitely against current law and likely against the law at the time.  That's only the beginning of the abuse.

Two times I ignored a large banner over the entrance for over a week (back then I was about 99.9% illiterate with Chinese characters), but noticed a trend of being called on Sunday at about 10 or 11 am for a last minute "The center invited a bunch of potential students in without telling me about it (this guy was literate in Chinese) and I need you to come in after lunch for an hour or so."  Naturally, since I was "personally benefitting by helping get more students to teach", there was no compensation of any sort for carving a chunk out of my one full day off on the weekend without getting reasonable notice.  The third time the banner appeared, I figured out what the date on it was and had a friend verify it was for the same type of event.  I made a tentative lunch and afternoon appointment with a couple of friends and said I'd confirm at 9 am Sunday morning.  Sure enough, an hour or so after confirming, he called claiming "They just told me about this thing today." and seemed a bit shocked that I already had plans that I wasn't willing to break.

When their brilliant plan to be able to teach a few sessions a week while raking in a cut from everyone below them didn't work out as planned, they first hired 2 more teachers at lower pay.  Once that didn't get them what they were after, they unilaterally changed the contract.  Salary became hourly (at about half the rate we'd been getting for standard hours on salary).  Paid sick leave and paid time off (even for holidays) was removed.

Technically, I should have just bailed (one coworker resigned and the two guys they hired after I left both ran away after being given extremely long hours with no days off).  The problem was that by that time, I was already in love with the city and didn't want to leave my friends.  Since the pair of evil sleazebags kept making things worse and I couldn't find a replacement job in time, I did end up leaving at the end of my contract in 2007.  Happily, I made it back a couple times in 2009 and then moved here permanently in 2010.

Near the end, my work hours got cut more and more.  They then tried to offer classes on my 2 off days (funny how my end of the countract was supposed to be infinitely mutable).  One of them even taunted me about not giving me any hours at a summer camp they were holding for high schoolers.  Suddenly, they did need me for that.  Too bad for them that I'm very good at saving money and even payment for 2 weeks of long hours wasn't enough to convince me to do them any favors.  Instead, I got to spend more time with my friends before finally flying back to the US.  Their final insult was to claim to have cancelled my contract 5 days early and demand I vacate the apartment.  No evidence of this cancellation was presented.  It wasn't really worth their effort to go and do paperwork.  They just wanted to cause problems for me since I hadn't permitted them to get in any bonus abuse.  These two were exploiters in China who didn't seem interested in Chinese people unless that resulted in profits, so they didn't understand how Chinese people help good friends.  They expected that I'd have to shell out for a hotel or pay to fly back sooner.  Instead, a friend put me up at his house.  When I came back, I rented a floor (and later the whole house) from him.

I see you've found Edgar's Law in a Minute.  He's got a pile of short videos on a lot of things I wish I had known back then.  If I'd dragged them down to the labor bureau with the stunts they were pulling, they pair of them would have been thrown into prison and then gotten permanently kicked out of the country.
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