Teacher sues employer after being suspended for having a second child

A primary school teacher in Xi’an has taken her employer to court after she was suspended without pay for allegedly breaching family planning rules. Wang Min (pseudonym) argued that the actions of her school and the local education authority violated her right to employment.

Wang, who had been employed as a fifth grade teacher at the Baihua village primary school in Xi’an’s Weiyang district since 2006, gave birth to her second child in June 2013. Two months later on 29 August she was informed that because of “family planning problems” she had been suspended without pay.

When her attempts to resolve the matter with the school failed, Wang took the school and the district education bureau to court, demanding reinstatement, payment of wages and economic compensation. The case was accepted by the Weiyang District Court on 17 July.

Although there are provincial regulations that allow for employees in Shaanxi to be dismissed (“in extreme cases”) for having additional children, Wang argued that since her husband had a rural household registration (户籍), the education bureau could not say for sure that Wang had actually breached family planning regulations. Rural residents are allowed two children if the first is a girl. Wang said because the family planning department had yet to make a determination on the matter, the actions of the school and education bureau were illegal.

Technical issues aside, the case raises an important point of principle; namely should employers (including government departments) be able to deprive employees of their livelihood simply because they were in breach of family planning rules? It is the responsibility of the family planning department alone to levy fines and impose sanctions in such cases, and therefore the employer should have no say in the matter.

The lawsuit comes as China is gradually relaxing the one-child policy that has been in place since the late 1970s in a bid to address the demographic imbalances and serious social problems engendered by it. At the end of December 2013, for example, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed a resolution allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child, which is the case for the vast majority of urban residents in their 20s and 30s.

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