Subscribe to our Telegram channel for our latest stories and breaking news.
Editor's Note: The story has been updated to include a new statement by The Hub's owner.
A former employee of The Hub Coffee Roasters has accused the specialty coffee business of racism and bullying that made her resign
In a lengthy Instagram post on Wednesday, 3 March, Malaysian-Indian Melissa Kaur Wathan narrated the traumatising ordeal that made her scared of going to work at The Hub's Damansara Heights outlet.
"It's been a week and I'm still thinking about it," Melissa wrote, adding that she never understood how verbal abuse and racism could affect someone until it happened to her.
She said that while she is someone who usually tolerates how others treat her and never really puts an argument about anything, this time she feels like "for once in my life I need to stand up for myself".
According to Melissa, she joined The Hub sometime in October last year after leaving her previous job at a commercial coffee company
Prior to joining, she met Nicholas Tay, co-owner of The Hub, at their Plaza Zurich Damansara outlet.
"I was very honoured to talk to someone like Nicholas. He gave me the service and comfort at the early stage of my venture. He offered me to work with them since I had some background and they were short of staff," Melissa wrote, adding that she remembers telling Nicholas about having zero experience with espresso.
"He knew I was a homebrewer, so he assured me that it was okay and what mattered was if I was willing to demonstrate a positive attitude and work. I agreed and started training at their OUG outlet."
About three months later in February this year, she was asked to assist at The Hub's Damansara Heights outlet.
"I was nervous yet excited because it was a dream," Melissa said, not realising that it was soon going to turn out to be a nightmare.
According to Melissa, she felt that was disliked and not welcomed there starting from day one.
"A barista named Joey told me that I wasn't needed there and that they had mentioned this to Nicholas," she wrote, highlighting how she was told they didn't need a barista from the OUG outlet to help out.
"I ignored whatever she said and resumed work as usual. I usually worked there twice a week, so I didn't make a big deal out of it, but it got worse," Melissa wrote, adding that the verbal abuse increased with time.
She was then asked to work at the Damansara Heights outlet for four days.
I became more devastated.
"I asked the owner if working there was a better choice because [the] girls didn't like me there. I mentioned how I was treated and they told me that they are aware and will look into the matter," she wrote in her post.
"So I continued to work there with the hope that these girls were already confronted and that it would be much easier to work with them now. It didn't end quite well."
In her post, Melissa accuses Joey and her friend, who is also named Joey, of continuing their verbal assault on her by calling her "brainless, worthless, and f-cking lazy" all in the name of training.
According to Melissa, Joey defended herself and her friend's behaviour towards her by excusing it as being "direct and sarcastic" with people they have trained.
"She said that she's not there to babysit me and that I didn't show any sense of passion for coffee. She mentioned that I didn't qualify to work in the specialty industry and that I belong in a restaurant chain like [redacted]. She went on and on about how useless my presence was," Melissa wrote.
I felt so humiliated and degraded. Never have I experienced such a situation.
But it didn't end there, Melissa says
When a regular customer asked about an outlet that was about to open just opposite The Hub, enquiring if the owners of the new outlet were Indians, Joey allegedly answered in a tone full of disgust.
According to Melissa, Joey answered the customer saying, "Mana adalah, Indian useless" and then turned towards her to say that she didn't mean this for her.
"The entire time that day, I was continuously yelled at because I wasn't good in the espresso routine. I became so demotivated and quiet. I didn't utter a single word," she wrote.
After that incident, she said she knew her journey there had ended
"So I texted the owner stating that I would like to resign and she called me to ask what happened. We spoke on the phone, but I felt so unheard because she kept justifying the girls' behaviour," Melissa wrote.
According to her, Nicholas' wife - who is also The Hub's co-owner - told her that they need both the employees there because they know how to 'manage' the outlet and that Melissa must have misunderstood them.
"She said that their character is very direct, and told me to take the next day off and that she and Nicholas would discuss the matter. She also told me that they will talk to me when I resume work in OUG."
However, the next day, Melissa received a text from Nicholas' wife saying that they are accepting her resignation as it was a better choice since she was unhappy working there.
She said that while she isn't the kind of person to air out problems she has faced, what happened with her at The Hub left her feeling extremely humiliated and bullied all for wanting to learn.
Following Melissa's post, The Hub has released a statement
In the statement that was posted across their social media pages, The Hub stated that what Melissa said was correct and that they never intended to deny what she experienced.
However, The Hub appeared to put the blame solely on one staff who is "rude and disrespectful".
According to them, while they regret that such an incident occurred in their company, no action will be taken against the staff "because she has pledged not to repeat her behaviour".
They said that they apologise for the incident and would like to thank Melissa for her help during this period, albeit a short one
In the statement, The Hub said that they had hoped that there would be a better outcome from this because to them, Melissa seemed to be able to work well with other colleagues at the OUG outlet.
"With regards to allegations of us being a company that employs racism policy, we strongly deny that. We cherish the best talent we could come across all the time as we think the Malaysian coffee industry has so much room for growth," The Hub said, adding, "We wish to reiterate there was no intention to lay off Melissa in the first place, and we were surprised by her tendering to leave, as we believe in a long term working relationship."
"On the staff responsible, we hope to reiterate that we do not agree with her behaviour and have communicated our stance to her, it's because she has pledged not to repeat her behaviour, we decided to give her another chance and not to lay her off."
Meanwhile, Nicholas has since taken to Melissa's comment section to clarify that he never denied that the accused staff is wrong
At the same time, though, Nicholas commented, "No one is perfect".
According to him, the way Joey spoke to Melissa is not correct but she just needs to be taught about having a good character so she can learn and be better.
"At least, A will say sorry and accept what we say that she can't act or speak to people like this in future, she knows she is wrong, she knows that she needs to improve and respect people," he wrote.
Nicholas also stated that Melissa did mention to him about not having a prior experience, but after three months of training her, she can't simply be saying she's only interested in filter coffee and not espresso base.
"Our job as a barista is to cover everything from making coffee to hospitality, not only filter coffee. But we didn't tell you because same as Joey, we know no one is perfect as we need to give chance for everyone."
His comment, however, has backfired with several netizens since calling him out for gaslighting Melissa and asking for an apology from her
According to Nicholas, as an employer, he can't just listen to one side and take action.
He says that the problem that started between two staff now involves the company, due to which he now needs Melissa to say sorry to them as he is not racist because he had hired Melissa in the first place.
About accepting Melissa's resignation, Nicholas said that there are reasons for it; as if a person is willing to change, the business is always happy to give chance, but not if the person thinks they are always right.
Nicholas also questioned if an employee should be immediately let go for saying something racist.
Amidst all this, Melissa spoke to this SAYS writer to share that The Hub was aware of the racism and chose to discriminate against her.
"How can one be openly racist and deny it," Melissa remarked.
She told SAYS that before going public, she did go to them.
"Before I resigned I told them I couldn't stand the bullying. And they told me they would take care of it. I was scared to go to work. They chose to see the bullying and racism as a misunderstanding," she shared.
"This is not a misunderstanding. This is bullying and racism. And my employers did not give me the reassurance I needed. Instead, they justified those two employees' behaviour."
She surmised that The Hub didn't want to confront the problem.
"So since I said I was going to resign, it was a better option for them," Melissa told this SAYS writer, agreeing with the conclusion that her resignation gave them an easy way out.
Since the publication of this story, Nicholas released a fresh statement on The Hub's Instagram page, saying he would like to extend "an unequivocal, unconditional, and unreserved apology" to Melissa
Nicholas admitted that when she came onboard, he made a terrible mistake of not being diligent enough in ensuring the best environment for her to grow. "I shall admit to that mistake and owe up to it," he wrote.
Addressing the issue about Joey who was accused of racism and bullying by Melissa, Nicholas said that after taking a couple of days to understand the issue, they are letting the staff go for the time being.
"I have spoken to Joey about this, and she is willing to change. We are willing to change," he added.