WHEN Mrs Mary Pereira Wales, 26, discovered in March that she was three months pregnant, she was elated.
But while she gained a daughter, she lost her job in marketing communications.
She claimed that five months later, she was sacked by Music & Movement, an events management company. She says it is because she was pregnant. The company's CEO, Mr Lim Sek, says it is because she was under-performing.
She joined the company in November last year.
Mrs Wales, who gave birth to her daughter last month, has since filed a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to seek full maternity benefits from her former employer.
MOM said it is investigating the case.
Here are the conflicting accounts of the dispute.
Was Mrs Wales confirmed after her three-month probation?
Mrs Wales: In March, I met Mr Lim for a performance assessment. He was pleased with my overall performance and verbally told me that I was confirmed.
The next day, I e-mailed him to request a written confirmation, but I did not get a reply. I asked him verbally in April again, but he did not give me an answer.
Sometime in April, I told him about my pregnancy.
Mr Lim: There was no such performance assessment meeting in March. Neither did I verbally confirm her.
In fact, I was unhappy with her performance but gave her a chance as she was new then.
The administrative department also kept chasing me for a decision on her confirmation and I told them I could not confirm her as she had not delivered (in terms of work).
Mrs Wales claims she was told to either go part-time or to take a break in July. True?
Mrs Wales: Mr Lim said he was downsizing and could not afford to keep me on a full-time basis. He also said I was under-performing.
I did not accept either option.
Mr Lim then offered me a new contract stating a new position with two months probation and a $300 pay cut with no benefits, maternity or otherwise.
He kept insisting in front of colleagues that I was not committed to the job as I did not stay past the stipulated working hours. That to him appeared like I was not putting in any effort.
I did not sign the contract as I was uncomfortable with the terms.
Mr Lim: There was no talk about taking a break or going part-time. I was downsizing in terms of office space, not staff strength.
If I could not afford to pay her, would I have made a second offer to her?
The contract given to her is fair. We shortened the probation period and offered her a pay package that was even higher than the average entrance-level pay for the same post.
She cannot say that there were no benefits because the letter stated only the major changes to her existing contract and that a new contract would be given to her upon confirmation.
If she was unclear or uncomfortable, she could have raised any issues, but she did not. She just kept saying that she did not want to sign the contract.
Why did Mrs Wales lose her job?
Mrs Wales: In August, I suffered an acute asthma attack and was on hospitalisation leave for two weeks.
When I returned to work, Mr Lim commented on my lack of commitment - not calling in to the office to ask about work matters.
He also made discriminatory remarks about how I had made an obvious choice to expand my family instead of wanting to focus on my career. He claimed I was unable to give full commitment to my job.
I refuted that it was a very unfair judgment as I was perfectly capable of balancing work and family.
He asked if I could socialise with clients after office hours in my pregnant state. I said it was not a major part of my job.
I also said I would not sign the new contract. Mr Lim then gave me the boot.
Mr Lim: I certainly do not expect sick staff to work when they are bedridden or are on short-term medical leave.
She was hospitalised for three days, then put on home-stay for observation for the rest of the period.
I certainly did not expect her to work. All I said was that I found it disappointing that during that whole period, she did not even have the decency to call the office to ask about the progress of things. Her pregnancy had nothing to do with it. It was really about her work attitude.
As long as an employee performs well and has a good and responsible attitude, she can take as many days off or as long a maternity leave as she wants.
Also, I did not kick her out of the company. I offered her a fair contract but she refused to sign it. I said if she didn't, it would mean she wasn't interested. It was her decision not to accept the offer.
This article was first published in The New Paper on Oct 23, 2008.