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American teacher fired from Taiwan cram school for catching COVID

English cram school fired teacher for fear of COVID relapse, gossip from parents

Signs for American English cram schools. 

Signs for American English cram schools.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Ministry of Labor (MOL) ordered a cram school to compensate an American teacher after it fired him for testing positive for COVID.

Michael O'Dowd, a 26-year-old English teacher from the U.S., arrived in Taiwan on Dec. 20 and tested positive for COVID while undergoing quarantine on Dec. 22. He told Taiwan News that he was fully vaccinated, is asymptomatic, and has been "feeling fine" throughout quarantine.

He had been planning to return to work at his English cram school in Donggang, Pingtung County, once his quarantine ended in mid-January. However, on Dec. 28, he received a letter from his manager at the school stating that she did not want him to continue working after the Lunar New Year.

O'Dowd had already signed a contract for the upcoming semester, but his supervisor claimed that the new contract "was not real." He alleged the school was firing him for contracting COVID.

One the reasons the school listed for terminating him was that it had conducted "thorough research about Covid cases and how it's still very possible for patients to relapse even after three weeks." It cited the case of a "girl who came back from Japan" with COVID and claimed that after finishing 21 days in quarantine, her PCR test came back positive because she had "relapsed."

The following is an excerpt from the termination letter:

"Many people who finish their self–health monitoring, their PCR results turn from negative to positive. An example just happened yesterday. A Taiwanese girl came back from Japan. After she finished 21 days of quarantine, her PCR test became positive. This caused 饒河 night market closed and has done a big disinfection. It shows the sly and the unpredictable of the virus. I know it’s very bad to mention these to you right now. However, it is something that we need to think and face it, due to you are a teacher in Taiwan – you need to get in touch with many students."

Another reason cited for his termination was "gossip about my absence was already raising concerns about my whereabouts and as a result, my school."

In response, he sent the "outrageous termination letter" to the Legal Aid Foundation. The Ministry of Labor then called the school about the incident.

After being contacted by the MOL, the school agreed to pay O'Dowd an "out-of-court settlement," and he has been allowed to keep his work visa.

O'Dowd said that the Centers for Disease Control discharged him over a week ago, and he is "100% in the clear." Now that he is out of quarantine, he is considering whether to find another teaching job or "leave Taiwan for good."

Updated : 2022-01-24 07:31 GMT+08:00