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China: Around The Nation

Chinese woman sacked for being pregnant wins landmark case against employer

Dismissed worker at centre of class action awarded US$1,500 as compensation for lost benefits, but says she plans to fight on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 6:39pm

A woman in Beijing who was sacked because she was pregnant has won a groundbreaking workplace discrimination case against her former employer China Railway Logistics, The Beijing News reported on Tuesday.

The case, which was handled by the Chaoyang District Arbitration Commission for Labour and Personnel Disputes, was the first class action in the country to be brought by a female employee claiming wrongful dismissal. According to China’s labour laws, employers cannot unilaterally dismiss staff who are pregnant or nursing.

The woman, identified only as Xiaowei, filed the case along with former colleagues “Xiaolin” and “Xiaoming”, who were also fired. Xiaolin was pregnant at the time, while Xiaoming had recently given birth.

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The three women joined CRL’s data management and customer services department in August 2015.

In December 2016, they were asked to sign documents agreeing to downgrades in rank and salary cuts, which they refused after they found out other employees were given a pay rise. CRL executives had earlier told them that the changes would be applied across the board.

Later, in an attempt to force the women out, CRL deleted their work email accounts, invalidated their work passes, and dumped their belongings outside the building, the newspaper report said. The three were formally dismissed in January, with the company citing “long absence without proper causes”.

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The commission ruled on Tuesday that CRL must pay Xiaowei about 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) in welfare subsidies that would have accrued between December 2016 and January 2017. The woman also plans to demand compensation for forced unemployment as she was unable to find another job after being sacked. The cases pertaining to Xiaolin and Xiaoming are still under arbitration.

CRL is a service provider under the state-owned China Railway Corporation, the national railway operator.

China has seen a baby boom after the decades-old stringent one-child policy was abolished in 2015. In 2016, the number of births soared by 7.9 per cent to more than 17.8 million, according to the National Health and Planning Commission.