Compiled and translated by Bing-sheng Lee
On May 10, a labor arbitration panel in Guizhou, China, ruled against a transgender man in an employment discrimination case, which is thought to be the first case of its kind in China, according to the New York Times.
The plaintiff of the case is a 28-year-old transgender man identified as Mr. C in local media. He was born a woman, but has considered himself a man and has been dressing in male attire since college.
Last year, Mr. C was dismissed by the Ciming Health Checkup Center after a brief probation period. According to Mr. C, who quoted a human resources manager of the center, the center fired him on the grounds that he dressed like a gay man and might give customers an impression of being “unhealthy.”
Mr. C in March filed his case with a labor arbitration committee in Guiyang, the provincial capital, after his dismissal.
In a telephone interview with the New York Times, Huang Sha, Mr. C’s lawyer, says the panel ruled that the company pay Mr. C CNY$402.3 (approximately US$61) as his wage for his one-week probation period. It denied Mr. C’s request for an additional month’s wage, which is around CNY$2,000 (approximately US$308), and it said the company did not have to issue a written apology.
Mr. C is disappointed by the result and says he will file an appeal.
Huang says that the panel favored the company’s claim that it fired Mr. C because of his incompetence rather than discrimination and considered the human resources manager’s comments on Mr. C’s appearance, which Mr. C recorded, unrepresentative of the company’s stance.
In late April, 32 lawyers in 14 Chinese provinces established an anti-labor discrimination group to offer legal help to individuals and companies. This followed Mr. C’s case and three other job discrimination cases, two of which involved HIV-positive men who claimed being discriminated against at work.
Discrimination against transgender at workplaces in East Asia
Job discrimination against transgender people has not been uncommon in East Asia in recent years.
In Taiwan, the first ruling of a transgender job discrimination case took place in 2011.
In December 2010, Chou Yi-jen, a transgender woman who worked at MacKay Memorial Hospital for more than four years, was dismissed by the hospital because she had occasionally left her duties without permission for two months.
Chou argued that she was forced to leave the job because the company could not accept her wearing women clothes to work, which she had started to do since September, 2010.
Before Chou was fired, the hospital also asked to reassign her duties because she wore skirts to work.
In May 2011, the committee on gender equality in employment of the Taipei City Government ruled that MacKay Memorial Hospital had violated the Article 11of the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, which regulates that “employers shall not discriminate against employees because of their gender or sexual orientation in the case of retirement, discharge, severance and termination.”
The Taipei City Government considered the hospital’s reasons to reassign and dismiss Chou to be based on discrimination against Chou’s gender orientation and fined the hospital NT$50,000 (approximately US$1,529).
The case was also filed in the Taipei District Court. In 2012, the court ruled that the procedures that the hospital took to dismiss Chou were illegal and ordered the hospital to pay Chou NT$16,000 (approximately US$489) as compensation.
Despite laws protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, discrimination against transgender still remains in Taiwan’s workplace.
In 2013, Lin Shih-fang, director of the Awakening Foundation, said that Taiwan does have laws that ban discrimination at workplaces, but they have been poorly implemented. The judiciary and government administrations lack understanding of the minorities in gender issues.
In Japan, a transgender trade bureaucrat last year sued the government for discrimination, claiming the trade ministry denied her access to the female toilets and harassed her about her sex change.
The plaintiff’s lawyer said that the lawsuit marked the first time in Japan a transgender person launched legal action seeking to rectify discrimination at a workplace.
In Korea, discrimination against transgender people at workplace also exists.
In an interview with SBS in 2014, Ha Sun-hye, a transgender Korean, said even though her boss did not fire her after she came out as a transgender, some of her transgender friends struggled to find a job. She said they were asked about their sexuality during interviews and were told that it would be difficult for them to work in the company.
SBS reports that the gender roles in Korea are strictly defined, where only heterosexuality is generally considered acceptable while homosexuality remains largely a taboo.
Edited by Olivia Yang
“Chinese Panel Rules Against Plaintiff in Transgender Job Discrimination Case” (The New York Times)
“Transgender bureaucrat sues METI over sex discrimination” (The Japan Times)
“Discrimination lingers for queer community in South Korea” (SBS)