A Beijing court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a woman who was fired last year when she was pregnant.
The woman, surnamed Wang, knew she was expecting when she signed a three-year contract, including a six-month probation period, with a Beijing investment consulting company in February of last year. But like many Chinese women in her situation, she chose not to inform her new employer of her pregnancy: Labor discrimination against women who are having or plan to have children is rampant in China.
The country’s labor laws state that employment contracts cannot be terminated for women who are pregnant or on maternity leave, or during their one-year breast-feeding period. But three months into her new job, Wang was demoted and had her salary lowered because she failed to find any new clients. Eight days after that, the company fired Wang, saying she was unable to meet the demands of the job.
Wang filed a case with the labor arbitration office of the city’s Chaoyang District, which in August of last year ruled that her contract should be upheld, though it did not grant her the 5,371 yuan ($850) in compensation for unpaid salary that she had asked for.
The company then took Wang to court, saying she had been fired for underperforming, not for being pregnant. But the Chaoyang District People’s Court ruled in favor of Wang — who proved with an ultrasound that she had been pregnant in January 2017 — and upheld the arbitration result.
The judge who handled the case, Yao Lan, emphasized that employers cannot terminate the job contracts of women who are pregnant. “They can only adjust the work content for pregnant women, or choose a post that is suitable for such women to handle,” Yao was quoted as saying in The Beijing News. The company, which was not named by the newspaper, could not prove it had negotiated with Wang over adjusting the content of her work.
Shanghai-based lawyer Lu Yan, who specializes in labor conflicts, told Sixth Tone that while Wang’s pregnancy status helped her win the suit, even an employee who wasn’t pregnant could have won if the company failed to properly communicate during demotion or firing.
Pregnant workers have had a very high success rate in similar cases, thanks to China’s strengthened employment protections for expectant women and new mothers. According to a press conference held Wednesday by the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court, more than 85 percent of female employees won labor dispute cases against their former employers.
But the much-emphasized protections for pregnant employees have made employers cautious when recruiting young women. As many as 54.7 percent of female applicants reported being asked about their plans for marriage and children during job interviews, according to a 2017 All-China Women’s Federation survey of nearly 10,000 families.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: E+/VCG)