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Lost So Much In Japan (a job, money, future) - Japanese Legal Question

greenocelot

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Hello,
May I please ask you a question?

Please will help with your advice. I know that I should've never been in the situation because I should've done more research, but they asked me to leave within a week, so I did not have much time to do so.


The recruiter for a company was not upfront about the salary. I recently (April 2016) had a very bad experience with an ALT dispatch company. They promised that I would have a livable wage when I started teaching in Saitama, but when I arrived there the dispatch company told me that I would work very long hours, which I later figured out would equate to less than $9.50 an hour. And he said that before coming to Saitama that they would pay for the first months rent and key fee (I have the Skype transcript to prove this). But once I heard the hours that would be associated with the pay, I had to leave before I signed the contract. So they are now telling me that I have to pay every fee associated with the apartment rental and cancellation. But I knew that I could not sign the next contract and take the job because what they were offering wage, hours associated with wage, offering no assistance was akin to indentured servitude, and being so I would never be able a month to ever have enough to live and pay on student loans. And after I decided I could not take the job, they then said I harmed the company; which seems like a crazy thing to say because they were trying to hire an employee with only a weeks notice, telling me half truths to get me over there, all to fill a position on a hope and a prayer, to cover themselves for a contract they made hastily with the city in Saitama, with not enough foresight to wait until the week before the semester started to fill the last teaching position.

Should I pay them? Do they have any course of legal action if I return to Japan to work? It has been about a month since this experience, but I feel bad for not paying them, even though everyone advises me not to pay them.


Thank you,
 

greenocelot

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I never signed a contract, just an employment offer, and the offer said nothing about housing or accommodations.
 
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Majestic

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A dispatch company is not likely to spend the time or the money to hire a lawyer to try to squeeze a few thousand dollars out of a potential foreign hire who now lives in the US and who never signed an employment contract in the first place. The chances of them winning such a frivolous suit are so low as to be laughable. This is just a case where they are trying to intimidate you into covering some of their costs - don't let them fool you. This company has no clout or standing with the Japanese government or immigration, and I can't imagine how they could hinder any future job prospect for you.

However, be aware that the concepts of "livable wage" and "work-life balance" are not anything that an eikaiwa or dispatch company will guarantee. The hourly wage you describe above is not, by itself, exploitative. It is more or less standard for any unskilled (or minimum-skilled) service-oriented labor. The days when foreign college grads could get gobs of cash for just having a pulse in front of a Japanese class are long gone.
 

greenocelot

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A dispatch company is not likely to spend the time or the money to hire a lawyer to try to squeeze a few thousand dollars out of a potential foreign hire who now lives in the US and who never signed an employment contract in the first place. The chances of them winning such a frivolous suit are so low as to be laughable. This is just a case where they are trying to intimidate you into covering some of their costs - don't let them fool you. This company has no clout or standing with the Japanese government or immigration, and I can't imagine how they could hinder any future job prospect for you.

However, be aware that the concepts of "livable wage" and "work-life balance" are not anything that an eikaiwa or dispatch company will guarantee. The hourly wage you describe above is not, by itself, exploitative. It is more or less standard for any unskilled (or minimum-skilled) service-oriented labor. The days when foreign college grads could get gobs of cash for just having a pulse in front of a Japanese class are long gone.
Thank you. Based on everything. If I did work at an Eikaiwa or become an ALT again, you don't think they would have any viable legal recourse do you?

Also, neat profile picture (the cooler king!).
 
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Majestic

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I see your edited post above referring to a signed Employment Offer. This changes things slightly, because, depending on the contents of the offer letter, this may represent a binding agreement. But it still doesn't change the dynamics of trying to prove and recover damages from you.

If I am a dispatch company, running on vapor-like margins, am I going to hire a lawyer to go into a tedious legal battle to recover about, what, $3k in costs? $10k in costs? A consultation with a serious lawyer is going to cost them money and time, things they really do not have.

If you agreed in email exchanges that you would repay them for certain costs incurred, their case becomes stronger, but again, nobody is going to court to recover a few thousand in damages from a college grad. They are not going to track your future progress in Japan so they can send their debt collectors after you. Some companies (mobile phone companies, for example) have "blacklists" which they circulate so that other mobile phone companies can be aware of deadbeat clients, but I think even the legality of this is/has been challenged (although I'm sure it still happens).

In the highly unorganized and unprofessional world of eikaiwa, the chances of this company organizing any sort of vendetta against you is microscopic. Just stick to the high road, apologize for their misunderstanding, don't admit any wrongdoing, and don't take any bait. Ignore them if you like. But also be aware that their hiring you in haste, and their contracting with the Saitama city in haste does nothing to excuse you from bolting on them. Those things may have been bad business decisions on their part, but they don't provide you with a smokescreen to do a runner on them.

Also, it isn't super-clear from your messages whether they arranged your visa, if you landed with that visa, and if you then abandoned/cancelled that visa when you returned. And following from this, it isn't clear if you registered with any city office while you were here. These could all be somewhat important details. And the timeline is confusing... you went through this in April, but you just left recently?
 

KyushuWoozy

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Where are you now? Saitama? Somewhere else in Japan? Outside Japan?
 

Mike Cash

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What were these horrendous working hours that were so bad they sent you scurrying out of the country?
 

greenocelot

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A dispatch company is not likely to spend the time or the money to hire a lawyer to try to squeeze a few thousand dollars out of a potential foreign hire who now lives in the US and who never signed an employment contract in the first place. The chances of them winning such a frivolous suit are so low as to be laughable. This is just a case where they are trying to intimidate you into covering some of their costs - don't let them fool you. This company has no clout or standing with the Japanese government or immigration, and I can't imagine how they could hinder any future job prospect for you.

However, be aware that the concepts of "livable wage" and "work-life balance" are not anything that an eikaiwa or dispatch company will guarantee. The hourly wage you describe above is not, by itself, exploitative. It is more or less standard for any unskilled (or minimum-skilled) service-oriented labor. The days when foreign college grads could get gobs of cash for just having a pulse in front of a Japanese class are long gone.
Thank you for all of your help. The offer letter that I signed had no mention of accommodations or anything like that, it just said will you except the job. It did not say anything about the visa. Also, they did not lose money on the visa, because they had yet to apply for it. Do you think this might change anything?

I am in the US now.

I just could not stay because some months the salary went as low as 100,000 Yen, and the highest months it was 200,000 Yen. With hours from 8-5 PM, and they said some days would be longer.
 

Majestic

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Who knows? You are asking for legal advice, but we don't know the situation, and there are all sorts of gaps in the story that might indicate the extent of the damages the aggrieved party might feel entitled to. Putting aside all the legal expertise I've picked up through years of watching Law and Order, the fundamental situation seems unchanged...they incurred some expense in hiring you, and perhaps they made certain commitments to their clients based on your signed acceptance letter, so I'm sure they are feeling mighty upset. Be that as it may, you are now far enough away from them to make pursuing damages sufficiently unattractive. I highly doubt they would bother going down this path. Still, it doesn't cost them much to send you a very angry, threatening letter, so I'm sure they will continue to do that as long as it is interesting to them.
If they hired you from abroad with the intention to employ you, and they didn't arrange your working visa, then they're engaging in some shady practices. They aren't likely to take any action against you for fear that their dodgy business will be exposed. So...checkmate.
 

Mike Cash

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I recently (April 2016) had a very bad experience with an ALT dispatch company.
It has been about a month since this experience,
Huh?

they were trying to hire an employee with only a weeks notice

they did not lose money on the visa, because they had yet to apply for it
Huh?

What sort of visa were you here on when they were about to start you working a week later despite not having started the process of applying for a working visa yet?

And what were you doing between April and November?
 

KyushuWoozy

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I am in the US now.
If, as you said in your post, that you feel bad about not paying them you should pay them. However if you don't want to pay them they won't reach out to America to get the money and I wouldn't worry about coming back for another job with a different company in the future, especially if it's in a different area.
 

Glenski

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The recruiter for a company was not upfront about the salary.
EDIT: I just could not stay because some months the salary went as low as 100,000 Yen, and the highest months it was 200,000 Yen.
Be specific. What did they offer initially, what was in writing, and why do you say "not upfront" now? (Offering less during certain months is typical for dispatch companies because you will not be teaching all the time. But as is typical for such a scummy operation in general, to offer 100K is unreasonable. Answer my question above whether you knew this wage initially.)


They promised that I would have a livable wage when I started teaching in Saitama, but when I arrived there the dispatch company told me that I would work very long hours, which I later figured out would equate to less than $9.50 an hour.
EDIT: With hours from 8-5 PM, and they said some days would be longer.
How much longer, and did it include overtime pay, which is mandatory by law?

So they are now telling me that I have to pay every fee associated with the apartment rental and cancellation.
You don't. Keep in mind that many employers keep apartments at one place, and a new teacher merely moves in, so there is no fee involved here.

I could not sign the next contract and take the job because ...offering no assistance
What does this mean - no assistance?

they were trying to hire an employee with only a weeks notice, telling me half truths to get me over there,
So, you accepted something a week ahead of the start day, and flew here? Is that right?
If so, why?


to cover themselves for a contract they made hastily with the city in Saitama
Their problem, not yours. They were the ones who "harmed" -- the city!

Should I pay them?
No.

Do they have any course of legal action if I return to Japan to work?
No.

It has been about a month since this experience, but I feel bad for not paying them
Why are you writing this 30 days later? Have they been hounding you? Get over it. They were the ones in the wrong, not you.

If I did work at an Eikaiwa or become an ALT again, you don't think they would have any viable legal recourse do you?
No. But what is your visa status? Did you get a COE from immigration through them? You should cancel it.

Also, they did not lose money on the visa, because they had yet to apply for it.
You are the one who pays for the visa, and it's a mere 4,000 yen.
 
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