WHEN Monika Mazur arrived in Ireland, she couldn't believe her luck in landing a job just four days later.
She had just come through a divorce and left Wroclaw in Poland to join her parents and sister in Tralee, Co Kerry.
Ms Mazur started working in the Nile Shoarma and Pizza Hut takeaway in Castle Street on November 1, 2008.
But she was sacked from the job on April 28, 2009, when she collapsed from exhaustion and had to be taken to Kerry General Hospital.
Her only day off in that time was Christmas Day.
Her sister Anna rang Ms Mazur's employer, Mohammed Afzal Chaundhry, from the hospital to tell him Monika would not be able to go to work.
She was told to tell her sister if she wasn't in, the job was gone.
This week, an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ruled in her favour against Mr Chaundhry of Chaundhry House, Dromtacker, Tralee, who is originally from Pakistan, and awarded her €10,500.
The tribunal had heard that Ms Mazur worked 11 hours a day, seven days a week.
Her former employer, a married father of five, claimed he had been involved in a relationship with her and subsequently she was always at his premises and used to help out chopping vegetables.
"I used to only have cigarette breaks but these were quick because there was always someone coming into the restaurant," Ms Mazur told the Irish Independent yesterday.
She said she had been delighted to get the job at the start because her English was so limited. She started working in the kitchen chopping vegetables but within two months was making kebabs and pizzas, dealing with customers at the counter and over the phone and also did the cleaning.
Mr Chaundhry told her he was opening another business, the Tasty Grill in Kilrush, Co Clare, and she said he was rarely at the Tralee takeaway.
She said she asked him on numerous occasions how long she would have to continue to work such long hours but never got a satisfactory response.
"I didn't feel well and I knew I should leave but because of my family's financial situation I had to stay," she said.
In the end, when she collapsed and was fired from the job, she went to a social welfare office only to discover she wasn't entitled to any benefits because she had not made any contributions.
Mr Chaundhry had never registered her for tax or PRSI and did not issue her with a P45 when her employment was terminated.
She said that although she was relieved that the tribunal found in her favour, she still feared that she wouldn't get the money that's owed to her.
However, she encourages other people in a similar situation to report their employer and seek justice.
"Please God more people will complain because people like him should not be able to get away with that," she said.
"He's not only cheating the people who work for them but he's also cheating the Irish State."
Ms Mazur is now happily involved in a back-to-work scheme with FAS in Tralee and says she can't get over the kindness of the people who have helped her to bring her case to the EAT.
"Always my dream was to work with children but I know my English isn't perfect, but I will work on that," she added.