Chinese company fined for firing pregnant worker who napped during forced overnight shifts

Image: Paul Lin
  • A company has been fined $7,650 for the unlawful dismissal of a pregnant woman who fell asleep during her overnight shifts.
  • The woman, Xiaoyi, was fired in June 2019 for falling asleep four times for a duration of six to 28 minutes between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. after the company moved the pregnant employee to a nightshift.
  • Xiaoyi, who had been working with the company for seven years, did not receive compensation after her dismissal, prompting her to file a complaint ordering that the company pay her around $7,650.

An arbitration court has fined a Chinese company $7,650 for unlawfully firing a pregnant woman after she repeatedly fell asleep during overnight shifts.

The woman, Xiaoyi, who was on parking duty, was fired by her managers in June 2019 after the company, whose name was not disclosed by the Intermediate People’s Court in Zhuhai, had determined that she had violated the company’s rules by falling asleep four times for six to 28 minutes at a time, reported South China Morning Post.

In April 2019, the company changed Xiaoyi’s schedule to an overnight shift without consulting her or considering her physical condition as a pregnant woman. 

Although the woman had been working with the company for seven years, they refused to give Xiaoyi compensation for the shifts she had served after her dismissal. She then took the matter to an arbitration court where she demanded that the company pay her $7,650.

After she won, the company filed an appeal with the Xiangzhou District People’s Court. The intermediate court, however, stated that the company’s firing of the woman was unreasonable as Xiaoyi had fallen asleep when few cars were entering or leaving the parking lot where she was working.

Additionally, the court stated that because Xiaoyi was in the early stages of her pregnancy, the changes in her sleep behavior were understandable.

Disputes between pregnant women and their employers are not uncommon in China. In 2018, a privately-run medical center demoted a woman from working as a doctor to a nurse after she gave birth, the Morning Post reported. The medical center’s reasoning was that the woman had just given birth and would need “more days off.” After refusing to work as a nurse, the medical center made the decision to fire her. After filing a complaint with an arbitration court, the medical center was forced to pay the woman $9,430.

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