Supreme Court - “Employer made legitimate decision to dismiss wife of married couple before other employees in the process of justified retrenchment”
In times of financial crisis, are women really less economically affected than men?
It has been pointed out that despite the presidential candidates’ campaign pledges to ‘expand and stabilize women employment,’ the reality faced by women is still unstable employment. Not unrelated to this situation is the women groups’ strong protest against the recent Supreme Court ruling that “in case of much-needed retrenchment, it is legal for an employer to choose to dismiss before other employees one spouse if both spouses are in his employment.”
Two women dismissed by the Nonghyop Central (Agricultural Cooperative) filed a lawsuit against their former employer, claiming that ‘it was unfair to put them at the top of the retrenchment list just because their husbands also worked for Nonghyop.’ The women had asked the court to order Nonghyop to cancel the dismissal, but had lost the case in a lower court. Then on November 8, Section 8 of the Supreme Court (presided by Judge Yoo Ji Dam) re-confirmed the original ruling.
The management of Nonghyop had told the two women to hand in their resignations in 1999, stating that ‘if the wife, who is less affected by unemployment than her husband, refuses to retire, the husband will have to take turns to go on leave.” Forced in this manner to early retirement, the two women filed a lawsuit against their former employer.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Womenlink Korea issued a statement saying, “Dismissing the wife of a married couple working in the same company is clearly unjust and discriminatory, as proven in the Supreme Court case involving a married couple in Allianz that the plaintiff won in April. The recent ruling thoroughly tramples on women’s desperate efforts for minimum rights to a livelihood.”
Womenlink says that “since the ruling is by the Supreme Court, there are no further legal measures that can be taken.” However, it emphasized, “The Supreme Court is clearly being anachronistic in reversing its own ruling in April that dismissing married couples is unjustifiable.”