I Joined A Startup, Left, Then End Up in The Court: This Is My Story

A story which a programmer fight in the court alone against a company, with a lawyer and a forged evidence.

In 2018, I decided to quit my job at Intel to join a newly startup company, Boostorder (parent company: Instanture) believing their promise and future potential. Before that, I do all my homework before joining the startup. The company have received a new funding from a multinational company, financial check. One of my friends recommend the director as trustable, leadership check. I even visited the company myself to understand their work and product, all check. Obviously, they promised a lot, but do they actually deliver them is another story.

October 2019

After many empty promises and disappointments, I decided to resign and submitted my resign email on 10th October. The director, Chuah Teong Kee and I have a small, heated exchange when he known that I had resigned. In the end, we verbally agreed that if the company still need my assistance on my final week in the company, I will continue to work at the office and company will cash out my remaining annual leave if it happens.

Resignation email

December 2019

After discussion with my direct manager, he determined that my assistance was not needed in the final week. So, I applied my annual leave on 1st December as planned and did not went to the office from 2nd to 6th December. This is where the horror story start.

At the end of December, I found out that I did not receive my remaining salary and some of my parking expanses. I sent two reminder emails to the director on 24th and 30th December. No reply from both emails.

First salary reminder through email
Second salary reminder through email

January 2020

On 7th January, I sent a Whatsapp message to the director to remind him about the email and salary. Read but no reply.

On 13th January, I message my direct manager and another director in the company and explain to them what had happened. My direct manager replied that he already informed the director, but no reason is given, and no action is taken. While the other director in the company, Khoo Ta Kang refuse to help me citing that he is powerless against another director and do not want to get involved in this.

On 17th January, I went to office personally to seek a valid reason. The director refused to speak with me and told me that he will call police to get me arrested for trespassing private property if I did not leave the office immediately. I leave the office immediately.

Third salary reminder through Whatsapp message
Seeking help from direct manager and another director

February 2020

With advice from friend, I filed a small claim against the director of the company at Balik Pulau Court on 24th February. I naively though the company will just pay me back after they got the court letter. I was dead wrong.

Side note: Why small claim? Because it does not require a lawyer representation. Why not seek help from Department of Labour of Peninsular Malaysia? I tried but they cannot help me due to some law that written in year 1955 and did not get updated ever since.

No reply from the company after they received the court document. On 28th February, the director shows up with a lawyer in the court proceeding. Surprise! They claim that they refused to pay my salary because I did not apply my annual leave on time as written in the employee handbook: “All annual leave must be applied one week before”. I checked the employee handbook; this rule does not exist. They also claim that I did not submit my parking expanses, which I did, and I can easily prove them. Then I realized that this is not going to end without a fight, and they are not going to play fairly.

Side note: The small claim should be file against the company instead of the director because it is company that own my salary, not the director personally. This is corrected by the judge on the proceeding.

Small claim page 1
Small claim page 2
Defendant counter claim page 1
Defendant counter claim page 2

March 2020 – February 2021

MCO 1.0 and 2.0 hit. Court close and case get delayed multiple times. Still, I must go to court personally multiple times, sit in the court room waiting to get a new date and time for each time the case gets delayed. Unlike the lawyer, I do not get pay for this.

April 2021

Court hearing finally happen on 22nd April. Unsurprisingly, the director and lawyer show up in court hearing with a “updated”employee handbook which contain the new rule: “All annual leave must be applied one week before”. Surprise, surprise. Luckily, I have the old employee handbook and debunked their claim. I also have all my parking expanses digital report to backup. Their defends is down from “This employee break our company’s rule when he applied annual leave less than 1 week as required” to “The 1-week rule is not really relevant, it is unreasonable to approve leave on Sunday because it is hard to find a replacement”. Nice U-turn, Mr. Lawyer. I never know software engineer / developer need a replacement when they are on leave. Also, startup company don’t work on Sunday you say?

I also pointed that if the company honestly think that I broke the company’s rule or policy and refused to pay my remaining salary, they have plenty of opportunity to tell me when I email or message them to remind them about the salary. Instead, they refused to speak with me or reply any of my email and message and even threaten me to get me arrest when I meet them in person. This is simply just a retaliation against me for leaving the company.

Side note: If anyone who know about civil court’s process, all party must perform document filing and exchange document between parties before court hearing. I did my document filing and waited for them to exchange document with me. Technically I should know if they have submitted the “updated” employee handbook as evidence before the court hearing, but their lawyer told the judge that he does not know the process thus did not do the document filing before court hearing.

I going to skip the rest of the court hearing details because a programmer arguing with a lawyer in court is not as interesting as you can imagine.

One of the section in employee handbook 2018/2019
One of the section in employee handbook 2020

May 2021

On 6th May, the court finally ruled that the company must pay back my remaining salary. Before I manage to get the court ruling document done, MCO 3.0 hit follow by FMCO. Although the court still open during this time, to avoid unnecessary trouble and reduce non-essential travel, I opt to wait until the MCO lifted.

On 10th May, I received a mail from defendant’s lawyer informing me that Boostorder has already made the payment as order by the court on 7th May, which the company own me a year and half ago. Thank you very much?

Letter from defendant’s lawyer after court ruling
Proof of bank transfer transaction attached together in the letter

October 2021

FMCO become Recovery Plan and it never end. Finally I get my 2 shot of vaccinations, and able to safety travel a cross district to the court in order to get the final court ruling document done. Delivered a copy to Boostorder. Although they have paid me in May, I still want to get all the paperwork done (better safe than sorry especially dealing with a shady company and a dishonest employer).

Court ruled that Boostorder must pay back my salary

Conclusion

So, let me recap. I spend more almost 2 years fighting in court to get back the salary I lawfully earned at the first place. To be honest, the cost for all court filing and annual leave applied to attend the court in person, it already far excesses the remaining salary I tried to claim back. Not to mention the risk of catching Covid-19 whenever I attend the court.

Did the company get punished for not paying their employee as required by the law? No.

Did the company get punished for owning employee’s salary for more than a year? No.

Did the company get punished for submitted a forged evidence in court? No.

I’m just lucky to win in this court case. There are so many ways this court case can fall apart. What if my ex-employer claim that I did not submit my annual leave application at all? The HR system is under their control and who will think of taking a screenshot when apply for annual leave? What if I go to court without my old employee handbook with me? If I did not win the court case, every time other companies perform a background check on me when I apply a new job, do you think Boostorder will say nice word about me? My employment record and court record will be toasted!

What have I learned? In Malaysia, company can easily get away from not paying their employee if they are willing to pay the lawyer. Not many employees are willing to go through the legal trouble. For foreigner, that is even harder. Even if they do, what is the worst thing that can happen to the company? Pay back the salary and they are off to go. If employee decided to take their frustrations to the social media instead, it does not make any difference, employee still is not getting back their salary and a defamation lawyer letter maybe waiting in their inbox. So, if any of you happened to face the same situation as mine where ex-employer own your remaining salary. My advice for you “Forget about it”. If you insist on talking the same path as mine, my advice will be “Good Luck” because you really need all the luck to win.

Startup in Malaysia. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a story about me bashing how bad startup culture are in Malaysia. There are many good startup companies out there in Malaysia and even in Penang. But Boostorder / Instanture is not one of them and their bad behavior deserved to be call out because it is very damaging to local startup. Imagine if anyone who joined this startup company and went through such bad experience, will he / she choose another startup company again in the next job? Even worse, if an intern who joined such startup company during internship, will he / she spread good word about startup when he / she returns to the university / college?

Bonus: A lot of you asked me what have I done to the company caused that the director to go after me? I HAVE NO IDEA! I am working my ass off even on the last day in the office, porting Xamarin library, helping others to hunt bug in the app. Even after I left the company, I never turn down other ex-colleague request for help when they messaged me. The only thing I did was, I resigned from my position and like most employees who left this company, it is not a happy ending.

9 thoughts on “I Joined A Startup, Left, Then End Up in The Court: This Is My Story

  1. Wow. Please name the director.

    He seems to have an unhealthy vengeance towards you. Worse, he doesn’t communicate to resolve the conflict. This is a toxic attitude. What a bad leader.

    Like

  2. Speaking of this BoostOrder, I did 2 rounds of interview (somewhere Q1 2021) and did managed to complete take home assignment as part of the interview process.

    TK Chuah is the “director” that I’ve engage with and organized a session with their internal team members to go through my take home assignments, during Saturday

    Once that session done, I’ve been following up closely with the “director” on my application process and his response like keep stalling all the time.

    After numerous of follow ups, I’ve decided to keep silent and let this slide, as I assume they do not have the balls to reject/feedback candidates.

    Although in the job ads do post high salary range but the process of hiring is very unprofessional.

    Another possibility is that the company would steal my content from “take home assignment “ as an idea and execute it at their own, and the company would save their headcount cost.

    After reading this article, I’m lucky enough didn’t onboard with them.

    In summary, any individuals out there, pls consider this company very very carefully.

    Like

    1. Same here! I too did 2 rounds of interview with them too Q2 last year.
      Engaged with the same people mentioned in this post.

      I have the same sentiment in their process.

      Like

    2. Oh boy, I experienced the same thing too. TK contacted me via WhatsApp and explained the entire hiring process. Self-paced interview, “pre-interview questionnaire” and “discussion” with his internal team. Throughout the entire discussion, he kept asking for more ideas and elaborations (i.e. what can be done, how should I do it, what can be avoided etc.) The entire recruitment process was very unprofessional and messy as he did not coordinate/communicate with his HR. After researching around, I realised that he has been posting similar job listings consistently for months with very identical job descriptions. At least he put in some effort to play around with the job titles (i.e. Senior Executive, xx Lead etc.) to make it less obvious. If only this post existed before the “discussion” then I would not have been deceived. But then again, thank you for blogging your story.

      #BoostOrder #TKChuah #freeconsultationthroughinterviews

      Like

  3. Ooo, this story inspired me.

    Hmm, maybe i should also document all the process of my court case too. One day, can share step by step what really happened in front and behind scenes

    Mine is a civil case with a famous accounting brand. M suing so called professional firm and their, partners /directors for Conspiracy to Injure and Damage me.

    Same like this case lar, very pattern pattern oh, they submitted fake evidence amd hearsay Affidavits . Simple case but they managed to pusing pusing wanna delay and wear me out and kill my case. 2019 until now, still patten here and there. But I insist to have a day in court. Cross examination can easily reveal who’s telling the truth.

    Full trial is set Apr 2022.

    It’s consuming time and money, m pursuing for justice and principle ⚖️ so, it’s a worthwhile journey to document… 👍

    Like

  4. You mistake is not getting a proper legal advise. 1. You should claim for interest too which is normally 5% per annum from date of your Writ.
    2. With lawyer, you can get it done within 3 months even during the mco time.
    3. The company is punished in a way by having to pay the legal fees to their lawyer.
    4. Yes director is not punished that is because we believe director and company is 2 separate legal entity.

    Like

  5. Sorry to hear what you have experienced, not all bosses are like that, maybe you were just unlucky. Resigning from a big company such like Intel might not b a right move, many entrapment out there but we dont know how real it is while risking our stable income to fight for a higher one, but I believe this also is a good experience that can be gained. My 2cents advise is that you shouldnt post the lawyer letter with the firm name on it, they have the rights to take legal action against youm

    Like

  6. Few years back, i resigned from a startup because the company delayed my salary for 2 or 3 months. Along the way, i managed to recover the delayed salaries but the company didn’t pay back my claim. The amount is around 4k to 6k.

    Similiar like you, i wanted to file a small claim through mahkamah kecil. The company was in KL when i worked, but their business registration is in Penang. Few months after my resignation, the company in KL closed down. According to the court, they said i need to file the small claim in Penang according to the business registration address. And you know, travelling KL – Penang up and forth is another issue.

    I guess there is no simple or direct way to recover that 4k-6k thru small court if there are many hearings to attend. Although i wanted to get back the 4k-6k so much but in the end, i might endup spending more (time/money). So not worth the effort.

    4k-6k to us still our hard earned money and it shall be paid/reimbursed accordingly. The company which come out dirty tricks just because not wanting to pay, that is not cool at all. I believe if they could resort such tricks to the ex-employees, i’m sure they will do it to the next one. Let the karma do its job on them.

    Last year, I was interviewed by the “director” but the headhunter told me that i didnt passed. I was abit down that time la but after reading this post, i feel relieved that i didnt passed. LOL.

    Disclaimer: I’m not impying the company is bad or what (dont want to send wrong signal to the staff who are currently working in te company). Personally, I dont want to end up the same experience again because it is just not worth the effort. I just want peaceful process, not drama.

    Like

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