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No form of sexual harassment can be tolerated: court

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Published : 2014-07-21 20:29
Updated : 2014-07-21 20:29

An appellate court on Monday overturned the initial ruling that a former Samsung Card executive had been subject to an unreasonable dismissal due to an overly strict sexual harassment policy.

The ex-Samsung Card executive was fired for unnecessary physical contact with female employees and teasing them with sexual jokes. He was also found to have urinated on the street in front of the women.

Later, he filed a complaint with the state labor agency against the company, demanding “remedy for unfair layoff.” But the agency turned down his petition.

Next, he took the case to a Seoul district court, which decided that dismissing him from Samsung Card management was an excessive measure. The court cited the fact that the plaintiff only touched the women’s hands, heads or shoulders.

The Seoul Appellate Court, however, stressed that the main target of the ex-official was nonregular female workers.

In its overturning of the initial ruling, the appellate court said the former Samsung executive abused his position as a supervisor of nonregular employees with weak job security.

“He sexually harassed the nonregular female workers many times, exploiting his supervisor position,” said the verdict. The court also clarified that the “principle of zero tolerance” toward harassment should be taken into consideration at workplaces.

According to the sexual harassment white paper by the National Human Rights Commission, 50.3 percent of harassment cases occur in the workplace.

Nearly 20 percent of instances take place at dinner outings with coworkers and 4.2 percent at education or training facilities. The report also indicated that power plays a significant role in sexual harassment, with 61.1 percent of cases involving a boss and an employee.

A poll conducted by an employment website (www.career.co.kr) showed that 4 out of 10 workers have experienced sexual harassment.

Of the 405 surveyed, 72.6 percent of those who were harassed were women while 27.4 percent were men. Nearly 79 percent of the offenders were “bosses” while 13.4 percent were business owners, 6.7 percent coworkers and 1.2 percent subordinates.

The form of harassment ranged from excessive physical contact to sexual jokes and remarks critiquing physical appearances.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)

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