Sony Employee Fired for Concealing Spouse Worked at HTC

Sony Employee Fired for Concealing Spouse Worked at HTC

Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang

Sony had the right to fire a Taiwanese project manager for not revealing her husband worked at HTC, one of Sony’s biggest competitors, a court has found.

In 2014, Kim was hired by Sony Corporation with a monthly salary NT$135,000 (approximately US$4,160). When filling out the application form, Kim answered, “No” to the question, “Do any of your relatives work for a competitor of Sony?” She even said her husband worked for “a family business” during her interview.

Two years later, Kim’s husband applied for a job at Sony. After examining their profiles, Sony found out that Kim had concealed details of her marital status two years ago and fired her.

Kim says that she was born in Hong Kong and studied abroad after graduating from college. Therefore, she claims that she holds a different perspective from most Taiwanese people and doesn’t regard “husband” as a “relative.” Also, Kim points out that the Personal Information Protection Act should protect the occupation of one’s spouse and she isn’t obligated to reveal such information to her company.

However, according to a court decision on the issue, Sony did not ask for further information other than the spouse’s job. Kim’s lie during her interview had already ruined their mutual trust, so Sony had the right to fire her. Additionally, since Kim did not cooperate with company policies after the incident broke out, the decision to fire her meets the “principle of last resort,” which requires companies to communicate with their employees thoroughly before firing them.

Similar lawsuits regarding conflicts of interest in employment have also occurred in the past. However, some courts in other countries regard such an act as marital status discrimination.

In the UK, a judgment made in 2011 implies the essence of marital status protection at workplace. It says that employers should not treat employees unfairly whether they’re married or single. In addition, the person an employee is married to is also under protection. Therefore, dismissing an employee due to their spouses’ jobs may violate the law.

In May, 2013, a court rule in Minnesota published a decision to reverse an appeal regarding conflict of interest. April Aase, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, claimed that she was discriminated by CTS, the company she worked for, for her marital status. She stated that even after clarifying that her husband’s job as a board member in a competitor company was “advisory,” CTS still required either she or her husband resign from their jobs.

While CTS argued that such discrimination was “permissible,” according to the Court of Appeals of Minn­e­­sota, firing Aase due to her husband’s occupation was marital status discrimination.

Edited by Olivia Yang

Sources:
ETToday
Liberty Times Net
“Weekly dilemma: Dismissal of an employee whose husband works for a competitor" (Personnel Today)
“Beware firing worker who sleeps with the enemy" (Business Management Daily)