Foxconn accused of refusing employment to woman because of tuberculosis infection

13 October 2011

A job applicant is suing a Chongqing subsidiary of Taiwanese electronics giant, Foxconn, after the company allegedly rescinded an offer of employment in its purchasing department when a medical test indicated the applicant had a tuberculosis infection. The Legal Daily said it is believed to be China’s first case of employment discrimination based on tuberculosis.

The applicant told the human resources department at Foxconn Hongfujin Precision Electronics that she had suffered from tuberculosis as a child but had fully recovered and that the calcification in her lung shown up in her medical check was simply a non-contagious residue or scaring from that disease. Regardless, she was refused employment by the company.

On 21 September, two months after she was denied employment, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Shapingba District Court in Chongqing, alleging employment discrimination against Foxconn Hongfujin.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Wang Xingyuan, told the Legal Daily that that “the right to employment is the same as the right to subsistence or the right to education – it is a basic right of all citizens,” adding that the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases clearly states that employers cannot discriminate against persons with an infectious disease.

There are an estimated 550 million people in China who have had some form of tuberculosis infection, and anti-discrimination activists in China stress the need for their rights as citizens to be respected and guaranteed.

Despite new legal restrictions on the use of pre-employment medical tests to reveal diseases such as Hepatitis B, which affects about ten percent of the population in China, such tests are still commonplace and are widely used by employers to discriminate against job applicants whose health condition they consider to be a risk. In nearly all cases the risk to other employees is negligible or even non-existent, but large-scale private enterprises and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) can use their popularity with job applicants to reject anyone they find undesirable.

A survey of 180 SOEs by the Beijing Yirenping Centre early this year showed that more than a third of those enterprises would refuse or be reluctant to hire people with Hepatitis B. The report noted that SOEs could get away with such blatant discrimination because the fines were so low, around 1,000 yuan, and, in many cases, the victims of discrimination lacked the resources to file a lawsuit. In addition, the report said, several hospitals and health professionals were more than willing to conduct such tests in their search for profit.

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