A former professor of KAIST College of Business is suing the country’s top research university for allegedly unfair dismissal, calling for compensation for breach of contract and damage to his reputation.
Steven Jordan worked as an assistant professor of finance at the graduate business school from 2007 to 2011 until he was dismissed in June 2011 for alleged double-jobbing and unauthorized overseas travel.
The American professor was sacked following his listing as a “full-time professor” on the website of Peking University in China. Peking University later clarified to KAIST in an email seen by The Korea Herald that his listing was a clerical error, and that Jordan was only a visiting professor.
Jordan claims that his trip to China was approved by the school before departure. He said he was forced to travel to find new employment after learning that his contract would not be renewed after three years at KAIST.
Jordan’s initial three-year contract ended in August 2010, but he was given a one-year extension to find new employment. The school usually offers an extra year at the end of a contract for staff to find new work. Jordan’s second contract included a clause specifying payment would continue only as long as he remained with the school.
In emails seen by The Korea Herald, Jordon informed his then-department head, professor Han In-goo, of his plans to travel to find new work in November 2010. He also requested the rescheduling of his teaching duties to accommodate the trip. Han accordingly changed Jordan’s teaching schedule.
“The intent of my email was very clear: I need April and May free so I can travel and visit. And he said I can make April and May free, yes,” said Jordan.
The professor stayed in China for two months in early 2011, before he was fired for outside business activities after the university found his listing on the Peking University website, according to an official from the KAIST College of Business.
“We also received a confirmation email from the Peking University that he was paid for teaching. Double-employment is clearly against the school policy. So we decided to fire him two months before the one year extension (ended),” the official said.
The official claimed that Jordan also violated the school’s code of conduct by ignoring formal procedures.
“He didn’t fill in a form that is required before going on a business trip. He knew that he needed to do it because he had been on more than six trips before. Maybe he did not want the university to know about his trip to China,” he added.
Jordan claims that the university never told him about such a form and that its stated rationale for not doing so was to avoid hurting his feelings. He admits teaching at Peking University in early 2011, but insists his work as a visiting professor was consistent with university policy and the norms of academia.
“It is standard when you visit at a university you will engage with the university in full, you are going to work with the students, you are going to work with the faculty, they are going give you an office,“ he said.
Jordan added that the school had begun eviction proceedings against himself and his family and that they were currently without health insurance, causing them great distress.
The professor is also claiming four months back wages, two months outstanding wages and severance pay. He filed a lawsuit at the Seoul Central District Court on November 2011, seeking compensation of more than 356 million won ($311,000). The first defense hearing was held last month and the second hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
'부당해고' 외국인 교수, KAIST 상대 소송
카이스트(KAIST) 전직 외국인 교수가 자신이 부당하게 해고 당했다며, 대학을 상대로 소송 중인 것이 뒤늦게 알려졌다.
스티븐 조던(Steven Jordan) 교수는 지난 2007년부터 카이스트 경영대학 금융전문대학원에서 조교수로 근무를 하던 중 2011년 6월 이중계약 등의 사유로 해고를 당했다.
그가 당시 계약기간 중 ‘전임교수’로 북경대학에서 근무했다는 것이 문제였다. 하지만 그는 당시 전임교수가 아닌 방문교수 자격으로 북경대에 머물렀으며, 북경대가 홈페이지에 자신을 전임교수로 잘못 표기한 것이라고 밝혔다.
KAIST는 조던 교수와 2007년 3년간 계약을 했고, 2010년 8월 계약이 끝날 당시 재계약을 하지 않겠다는 통보를 했다. 하지만 KAIST는 통상적으로 재계약을 하지 않는 교원에게 1년간의 계약 연장을 하며, 이 기간 동안 다른 곳에 구직 할 수 있도록 편의를 봐주고 있다.
조던 교수도 이에 따라 2011년 8월 30 일까지 1년간 계약을 연장했다. 문제는 이 1년 연장기간 중 그의 중국 방문이다. 그는 자신의 중국 방문이 해고 사유가 될 수 없다고 주장하고 있다. 이미 출국 전 당시 학장이었던 한인구 교수와 이메일 서신을 통해 허가를 받았고, 사전에 맡기로 했던 수업도 조정했다는 것이다.
하지만 학교측은 그가 아직 계약 기간 중임에도 보수를 받고 북경대에서 강의를 한 것과, 출장신고서를 제출하지 않는 등 학교 절차를 위반했다는 것을 문제 삼아 계약 만료 두 달 전 그를 해고 한 것이다.
그러나 조던은 자신이 “방문교수로 자격으로 북경대에서 가르친 것은 사실이나, 학교 규정을 위반 한 것은 아니다”라며, 학교 측을 상대로 두 달간 받지 못한 임금과, 지난 1년여 간 보험혜택을 받지 못한 피해 등 보상을 요구하고 있다.
조던은 지난해 11월 서울 중앙지방법원에 KAIST를 상대로 약 3억5천 만원의 청구 소송을 냈다. 지난달 1차 변론 공판이 열렸고, 오는 19일 2차 변론을 앞두고 있다.
존 파워, 오규욱 기자