'I Was Hoping For a Legal Breakthrough'

china-gaoxiao-03312017.jpg Supporters of aspiring trainee chef Gao Xiao of Guangzhou in her gender discrimination court case, in undated photo.
Public domain.

A court in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Friday once more weighed in on the side of a woman who last year won a sex discrimination lawsuit against a restaurant chain, but who has yet to receive her public apology as ordered by the court.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court found in favor of would-be trainee chef Gao Xiao's discrimination lawsuit on appeal last September, ordering the Guangdong Huishijia Economic Development Co. to pay a fine of 2,000 yuan and issue a public apology in a newspaper.

But the company failed to comply, so the court printed part of a compulsory enforcement notice in Friday's Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper, ordering the company to make its apology, and to pay the cost of publication of the notice.

Gao, 28, had initially applied for 48,000 yuan in compensation, arguing that her failure to even be invited for interview as a trainee chef in 2014 was evidence of gender discrimination on the part of the company.

The company had told her the job was filled, before readvertising it for "male applicants only," she told the court.

Gao welcomed Friday's move, saying that while it wasn't the same as a genuine apology from the company, it showed that attitudes to gender discrimination are slowly changing in China.

"This is a step-by-step process," she said. "The first case was referred for arbitration, while the second and the third actually found there to be gender discrimination."

"Of course I was hoping for a legal breakthrough, to send the message to everyone, to women, that there is such a thing as gender discrimination in today's society," she said.

"Recruitment should be done on the basis of ability, not gender."

Guangzhou-based women's rights activist Zhang Leilei said the order to make a public apology is significant in a labor market where women frequently face gender-selective recruitment processes, whether explicit or implicit.

"Previous cases have never resulted in an order to apologize," she said. "I think there are more and more people who are concerned about this, as more and more women, college graduates are experiencing such treatment."

"And quite a lot of feminists are willing to stand up and sue; they now have the awareness to stand up and protest," she said, adding that there are precedents for sex discrimination cases.

In 2012, Shanxi college student Cao Ju successfully sued the Beijing Giant Global Education Technology for sex discrimination, winning 30,000 yuan in compensation after mediation, Zhang said.

And in 2014, job applicant Huang Rong sued her employer in the eastern province of Zhejiang, in the first case of its kind, she added.

Gao filed her initial lawsuit with Guangzhou's Haizhu District People's Court last April, after being rejected as an apprentice chef by the Haoxuan Hotel kitchen, which operates a "no women in the kitchen" policy, she told RFA.

The court's verdict was upheld by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on appeal.

Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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