A 23-year-old woman has accused a Shanghai language school of firing her due to her "unfavorable looks" in what may be China's first looks-related work discrimination case.
Qiu Zi has appealed to the labor disputes arbitration office of Shanghai's Xuhui District, with the case set to be heard today.
Qiu is asking the Shanghai Jiaotong University Only Education Group to pay a 10,000 yuan (US$1,291) fine for breaking their contract and to refund a training fee of 260 yuan (US$33.6), the arbitration office announced.
Qiu, from central China's Henan Province, has an abnormally big head due to suffering from hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, when she was born.
She graduated from the English education department of a collage in Henan's Shangqiu City and was hired by the Only Education Group on December 1, 2006, following a 15-day teacher training course at the company's Zhengzhou branch.
She was told to report to another branch of the group in the eastern Zhejiang Province on December 21. However, Qiu received a call from Shanghai asking her to return to Zhengzhou following her meeting with the head of the Zhejiang branch on December 24.
Qiu returned to Zhengzhou on December 26 and was informed by the branch manager, Zhao Yan, that her appearance did not meet the requirements of the Zhejiang branch.
"Since then, they have refused to honor the contract and to find me another job. The excuse is always that my looks are not suitable," Qiu said.
Qiu turned to the media, saying she was sure the Only Education Group would never give her another job.
"It's obviously discrimination to fire me because I don't look good," said Qiu. "I know my experience is not exceptional and some one should stand up, so I did."
Qiu has played a recording of her conversation with Zhao Yan, in which he said, "They (the Zhejiang branch) are not satisfied with your appearance and they don't think you are suitable for the job. In east China, especially in the big cities there, they do have requirements in this respect (appearance)."
Zhao went on to promise that the company was looking for other jobs for Qiu.
"My company and I have never discriminated against Qiu Zi on the grounds of looks. I have treated her as equal to others all the time and I feel sorry that it has come to this," Zhao told Xinhua News Agency.
Li Haoyang, head of the teacher training department of the greater north China branch of the Only Education Group, further denied any discrimination against Qiu.
"If we had discriminated, she would have been rejected at the beginning," said Li. "She has not been accepted by the school in Zhejiang, but it doesn't mean we have fired her. In fact, we have been looking for another job for her."
(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2007)