What happens if you’re fired by telephone?

I write often about employment issues because the point of my articles is not only to create awareness, but more importantly to assist as many people as possible. I am very grateful for this opportunity to make a difference and I am grateful to my readers who continue to email me and trust me with their legal concerns. Thank you!

And since I write in English and not Arabic (fortunately and unfortunately), a good number of the questions that I get are by expats who may have difficulty understanding the law. So please allow me to write the topics that I think will be the most beneficial to my readers, even if it means repeating parts of the information provided.

Recently, I got a case of a young Western man who was hired to complete a job – let us use the term ‘freelancer’ to make it easier. So this man has a talent and he was hired to complete an ‘artistic’ job. Now the contracts for such jobs are different than your regular employment contract – for starters, they have a set time and require a set of skills.

Fired by phone

Question: I was at the office finalizing my project. I had a few days left until the submission of the project, but I was told that my work was not up to standard, without any explanation. Later that day, I got a phone call from the project manager saying I was no longer needed and that I should not show up to work. What should I do?

Fajer: Rule number one for any job – freelance or not, for any job position, no matter what the reason is – you should always get an ‘official’ termination letter. You cannot be terminated by a phone call. You are terminated by an official letter, an email, a correspondence. If your boss decides to tell you that you are terminated via a phone call or at the office, your response to them should be “Can I have it in writing?” Always ask for things in writing, especially something as serious as a termination letter.

If your boss refuses to give you your termination in writing, then please continue to go to work. Continue to go to work until you have an ‘official’ termination letter. I know it sounds silly – why would I go to work if I was told not to? Well as a lawyer, I want to protect my client. If my client does not show up to work without an ‘official’ termination, then my client can be accused of absconding or can be terminated later for not showing up to work for seven days in a row in accordance with the Kuwait labor law. Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Also, as I said earlier, freelancers have different clauses in their contracts than what is contained in a regular employment contract. It usually comes with a clause that states that if the ‘freelancer’ does not show up to work or does not complete the work on time, or does not complete the work to a certain standard, then the relationship is terminated. This can cause some issues, as sometimes it is not clear whether a certain photo or video is up to a certain standard, so I highly suggest that such specifications should be written clearly in the contract. Be as specific as you can (if this does not have a negative effect on your work).

Calling security
Question: You advised me to go to work since my termination is not official yet. But since I was clearly told not to go to work, I am afraid to go to the office. What if they call security and kick me out?

Fajer: I do not know how your management or colleagues think, and although I can predict a few actions from my humble experience, I can’t always know what will happen. It may well be that when you do show up to work, security is called in, and they move you out. But I am worried about my client having an absconding case filed against him, so I would rather have proof (witnesses, security cameras and so on that he was not allowed to go to work).

There are other things that should be of concern to freelancers when they enter work contracts and I shall be writing about them in the near future. But for now, I wanted to share with you one of the cases that I received this week, in the hope that these mistakes will not occur again and that employers and employees are both aware of the situations that can happen and how to avoid them and be fair to both parties.

For any legal questions or queries, email ask@fajerthelawyer.com.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed

This article was published on 05/06/2016