Human rights case filed for overweight employeePenalizing overweight employees for failing to lose weight is employment discrimination based on personal appearance, South Korea’s human rights watchdog said Monday.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) accepted an appeal by a 31-year-old researcher at an electronics parts company who quit his job three months after being under excessive pressure to achieve weight loss goals set by his employer, ordering the company to pay 5 million won ($4,478) in compensation and to prepare precautionary measures.
As soon as the plaintiff, identified by his surname Jeong, was employed by the company last April, he was named one of five employees who was required to participate in exercise programs to lose weight and be monitored by department directors. Jeong said he resigned because stress mounted from the weight loss regimen forced on him by the company.
The company refuted the claim, saying it did not force employees to reduce weight and that employees voluntarily participated in the exercise program because the firm offered trainers and sporting equipment as part of its long-term health-benefits program.
The rights panel, however, said the firm infringed upon the employees’ rights, citing e-mails sent by the vice president that named employees who failed to lose weight. The e-mails ordered company directors to monitor their progress for a month and submit detailed plans, urging obese employees to submit resignations in advance if they failed to meet the target.
The NHRC said the plaintiff’s resignation was made while being under excessive pressure because the company required employees to receive physical checkups and give reasons if they omitted mandatory daily jogging.