Tuesday's Lifeline column in The Japan Times featured a situation that illustrated just how fly-by-night teaching English in Japan can be:
Reader TS writes: "I return to the U.S. next week and I was supposed to receive my final pay check from a really bad ALT company . . . last week, but did not receive payment. I've called them but the secretaries say that the people in charge are not in the office. I called my direct contact and he has yet to call me back.
"I've read on the Internet that with your last pay check this company will try and avoid paying you since the pay date is so close to when you have to return to your home country, and that when you return they will try and avoid all contact with you. I'm going to keep calling them, but somehow I worry that it is futile."
The article goes on to explain the hoops you have to jump through to get paid: send a letter through registered mail and wait for a reply. If that doesn't work, the next step is to go to a Labor Standards Office and have them call your employer on your behalf. Barring that, you may then need to hire a lawyer.
One crucial piece of information missing from the article is the name of the "really bad ALT company." While knowing what your options are when it comes to making sure you get paid is inportant, an ounce of prevention--knowing who the shyster schools are so you can avoid them--would save teachers a lot of grief. Fortunately, I'm told by a reader that the offending school is Japan Advanced Labour Staff Services (JALSS). You can read about them here and here.
Using the poor economy as an excuse to not pay staff is no excuse at all. The fact that non-payment appears to be common in eikaiwa should send teachers, prospective and veteran alike, running for the door. The moral of the story is this: If you quit your job, don't make any plans to immediately return home if you want to see your final paycheck.