China: Former Shanghai-based employee sues Aldi for firing her after reporting boss's alleged sexual harassment

Author: Sixth Tone, Published on: 7 April 2020

“Shanghai Woman Sues Aldi Over Boss’s Alleged Misconduct”, 7 April 2020

A former Shanghai-based employee of Aldi is suing the German supermarket chain for firing her after she tried to report her supervisor, a foreign national, for repeated sexual harassment.

The plaintiff, who asked to be identified as Julie to protect her privacy, told Sixth Tone that since she joined Aldi’s Shanghai office… her boss, Aldi China’s director of expansion, had sent her pornographic videos and pictures, photographed her without her consent, and asked her to see him outside of work…

Julie said working in such an environment made her extremely uncomfortable, and led to her being diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder at the Shanghai Mental Health Center in June.

According to a chat screenshot Julie posted on Weibo, her boss sent her a nearly two-minute pornographic video at around 11 p.m. one night…

On Sept. 18, Julie reported his inappropriate advances to Aldi’s code compliance officer, Jonathan Ward, who met with her three times in the following week… she attended a meeting with a lawyer for Aldi who requested her resignation and offered 20,000 yuan ($2,800) in unspecified compensation…

Angry and frightened by this encounter, Julie emailed other Aldi employees detailing her supervisor’s alleged impropriety, including screenshots from their conversations on social app WeChat. The same day she sent the emails, she received a notice from Aldi saying she was being fired.

Julie then filed an arbitration case with the Shanghai Municipal Labor and Social Security Bureau, but her claim was rejected because her reaction had been “too excessive.” According to the arbitration result seen by Sixth Tone, Aldi claimed that Julie had violated company policy by sending pornographic content — screenshots of her supervisor’s messages — to her colleagues…

According to Zhang [the lawyer representing Julie], Julie’s supervisor violated several of China’s laws and regulations on sexual harassment. The lawyer added that the current draft revision of the country’s civil code — whose formal adoption has been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak — explicitly mentions companies’ responsibilities in cases of sexual harassment. Zhang said he and Julie are preparing a lawsuit against the man, as well as an appeal of the labor bureau’s de facto ruling in favor of Aldi…

In an emailed statement… Aldi China told Sixth Tone it was aware of the claims circulating on social media but could not comment, as the case had “entered the legal process.” When asked about whether the supervisor had been fired over Julie’s allegations, Aldi said he “is no longer a member of Aldi’s employees.” It is unclear whether he resigned or was dismissed.

Repeated calls to the supervisor’s mobile number could not be completed, and an inquiry sent to his Aldi email address returned an automated message saying the intended recipient could not be found…

Read the full post here

Related companies: Aldi