He worked for years at other end of Estonia. Never knew it

Margus Mihkels
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Leonid Mihhailov used to work at a car repair shop, as self employed person and paying all his due taxes, writes Den za Dnyom. In 2014, he broke his leg and was on sick leave for two months. Having no income and thus unable to send in the tax money, he opted to give up current job.

«I went to work at a small security company. I liked the job as I had a bad leg but could do the work seated,» said the man. However, se soon run into problems: at times, he wasn’t paid timely, or something else went wrong. Having an option to retire early, he withdrew. The employment contract was terminated, and Mr Mihhailov got a document confirming that. After that, he assures us, he worked nowhere.

«I got my pension book on September 9th last year and was paid my pension during the first four months. But on January 5th I discovered the pension money was not coming,» he said. Going to find out, Mr Mihhailov was told that according to employment register he has for several years been working at OÜ Simetra Tööjõud. «I never worked there, never even heard of them. They told me the company was in Valga and I was to contact the owners so they would terminate my employment contact and make an entry in employment register. But who are these people?» complained the man caught in the cogwheels of bureaucracy.

Credit Register says Simetra Tööjõud is indeed located in Valga but there is no business activity and they have unpaid taxes. Also, bankruptcy procedure has been initiated.

Mr Mihhailov was given the company’s telephone number and email address but he could not get contact. He proceeded to try and clear the mess via administrative agencies. Firstly, he filed to police regarding identity theft but was soon sent notice that a criminal proceeding was not going to be initiated due to lack of necessary elements of a criminal offence.

Mr Mihhailov met with an investigator who advised that he write an application to prosecutor’s office – but they never paid attention to him there either. Next he went to Tax Board where he received a certificate about being employed by that company since August 2014. The Board data said he has been on salary, from which social tax ought to have been paid but was not.

Next, Mr Mihhailov had recourse to labour dispute committee where he was advised to sent a letter to Valga by registered mail demanding to have entry changed in employment register, but they refused to help him. «I know not what to do. I want to take a jurist but that costs money. I do not receive my pension for three months, cannot go to work and all because this trickery,» he said, indignant.

As explained to Den za Dnyom by Northern district prosecutor Ainar Koik , criminal procedure can only be initiated when elements of criminal offence are present in the report. In the case at hand, they aren’t. «The citizen who filed the report was indeed enrolled as on staff with Simetra Tööjõud OÜ who made no payments to him,» said Mr Koik. Identity theft means that personal data was used maliciously, but in the case at hand nothing like this has been established. 

The prosecutor’s office advises to have recourse to Labour Inspectorate competent to find out that employment relationship is indeed missing and make the relevant entry into employment register.  

Labour Inspectorate deputy director-general Meeli Miidla-Vanatalu admitted the situation was very complex indeed and the man could only get his rights in court. If the entry into employment register would be linked to actual employment contract relationship, the issue could be settled at labour dispute committee. «In the case at hand, however, all there are is registry entries related to the individual, which do not correspond to reality,» she said.

Mr Mihhailov could go to court with several claims. He could demand that the court establish that he has never been on Simetra Tööjõud payroll and the entries into employment register are not true. He could apply for the court to alter entries related to him in employment register. He could demand that companies who caused him damage by false entries compensate the loss of pension. Also, he could require that the company cover his legal assistance related to the court procedure.

«Regrettably, filing a statement of claim is at state fee, and initially there would be the legal assistance costs as related to composing the statement of claim,» observed Ms Vanatalu.

Now, Leonid Mihhailov has three options. Either to sue the mysterious employer, or somehow survive the next 1.5 years until he turns 62 and can draw old age pension.

The third option is hoping that prosecutor’s office will repent and find out for what purpose the company is using other people’s names.