Angry former employees of international studio MiclnGrace Studios in Bryanston have accused their employer of scamming and exploiting them. Picture: File Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency
Angry former employees of international studio MiclnGrace Studios in Bryanston have accused their employer of scamming and exploiting them. Picture: File Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency

Angry ex-workers accuse MiclnGrace Studios of exploitation

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Jul 8, 2020

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Angry former employees of international studio MiclnGrace Studios in Bryanston have accused their employer of scamming and exploiting them.

They claim to have been employed by the studio for about three months, only to be unfairly dismissed before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MiclnGrace Studios has headquarters in California, however a Johannesburg branch was launched recently. The studio was established in 2011 by South African-born couple Michael and Grace Norman.

“The main reason for this is to inform other people in the industry to stop applying to that company. We have no unions to protect us,” a former employee told The Star on Tuesday.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she had signed a contract for an administrative position in January.

“Grace said to us that her office was open if people, especially women, wanted to talk to her about anything and that it would remain between her and the person,” she said.

The employee said that she discovered that she was HIV-positive and shared her story with the studio co-founder who allegedly also told her husband.

“I used to make tea and breakfast for Grace and Michael but after they heard about my status, things changed and I was told to stop. Management had a meeting and they said that no one was allowed to go into the kitchen without gloves,” she said.

The employee said that she was sometimes followed to check if she used gloves in the kitchen and on January 31, she was given a termination letter from the studio.

“I was confused because we just had a meeting and management told me that they liked me and my work,” she said.

She subsequently opened a case at CCMA. However, she alleged that she still hadn’t been paid for the month-long work she did.

The Star contacted MiclnGrace Studios’ public relations officer, Zenoyise John, about the allegations but she refused to comment.

A former employee in the design department said she also signed a contract on January 31.

According to the employee, her contact started that if she fell pregnant she would need to immediately inform the company. However, she was advised to wait until her probation period ended.

“It became difficult to keep it in as the morning sickness worsened. I actually became very sick due to the air conditioner. My doctor gave me a day off and I sent a doctor’s note but when I came back, things changed,” she said.

The employee alleged that after she returned from sick leave, she was not given tasks and management alleged she was not working. “I spoke to HR to explain what’s going on and also tell them how I’m treated differently, all because of the pregnancy. Michael looked at me as if I’m nonsense and next thing, I was accused of not being at the workstation,” she said.

The employee said she was subsequently given a termination notice on March 13 with the reasoning that she was absent from work.

“I never even got paid. Lockdown came and I kept enquiring as to what’s going on and HR said the week notice still stands.

“They actually dismissed me because of the pregnancy but they didn’t say that,” she said.

The employee said that she had yet to receive her money for overtime or her UIF money.

@Chulu_M

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