It's not illegal to abuse your boss - court

By Time of article published Dec 8, 2006

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It's okay to use derogatory and vulgar language about your superiors in the office as long as it is done behind their backs, a Malaysian court has ruled.

The Industrial Court said a secretary at Malaysia National Insurance Bhd was not guilty of misconduct when she sent emails from the office computer to friends, griping about her superiors, the national news agency Bernama reported on Friday.

Court chairperson Syed Ahmad Radzi Syed Omar said Ratnawati Mohamed Nawawi's sacking for misconduct was unjust, and the court awarded her back wages and compensation amounting to 66 850,80 ringgit, Bernama said.

The Industrial Court handles workplace grievances, and it was not clear from the report whether the company can appeal the decision.

Officials of the company and the court could not immediately be reached for comment.

"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," Syed Ahmad Radzi was quoted as saying.

"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," he said in a 12-page judgment.

Syed Ahmad Radzi noted that no complaint was lodged against Ratnawati, and her conduct came to light only as a result of an unrelated investigation into the leak of a confidential report.

He said he agreed with Ratnawati that her words were not meant to undermine any senior officers but were merely gossip, equivalent to tea room chitchat, between her and three close friends.

"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" and happened to be on email in this case, the ruling said.

Syed Ahmad Radzi said the company need not give Ratnawati her job back as the trust between her and her employer was broken.

Bernama did not say when she was fired. - Sapa-AP

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