Nokia China faces lawsuit over rejection of Hepatitis-B carrier
The Chinese unit of the Finnish telecommunications giant Nokia is facing legal action for alleged workplace discrimination. The legal proceedings started in the city of Dongguan in Southern China on Wednesday.
A Chinese job applicant recently filed a lawsuit against Nokia in China, claiming that Nokia’s subsidiary in Dongguan turned him away after discovering that he was a Hepatitis-B carrier. He is claiming compensation of CNY 500,000, which is roughly equal to EUR 50,000.
This is reported to be the first case in China in which a multinational company has been accused of discriminating against a Hepatitis-B carrier. As many as 120 million Chinese citizens are carriers of the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) - nearly one in ten of the world’s largest population.
According to the Nokia company policy, a chronic disease must not have any influence on a recruitment decision, unless it makes the applicant unable to work or causes a considerable risk to others.
"This is a longstanding policy, of which all employees responsible for recruiting have now been re-informed and trained accordingly", reports Thomas Jonsson from Nokia’s office in Beijing.
The Chinese man who filed the lawsuit is publicly using a fictitious name, Li Sheng. At the court hearing his lawyers presented a recording that allegedly proves that a woman working in the personnel department of Nokia rejected Li on the basis of the HBV.
Even though the virus is reported not to be contagious under normal circumstances, about half of all Chinese workers refuse to work with HBV carriers, according to a survey conducted in the country in May. Hence HBV carriers often face discrimination in China. The first court case arising out of workplace discrimination on these grounds was heard there only as recently as 2003.
"This case will make the problem known publicly. It will also teach HBV carriers how to defend their legal rights", said Lu Ju, an HBV activist, who is assisting Li in the lawsuit.
Nokia has four factories, six product development units, and more than 6,000 employees in China.
The court is expected to hand down its decision on the Dongguan case in the next few weeks.