Authors: Carol Zhu and Yinbing Chen
Mr. Sun (“Employee”) joined the education and training company (“Company”) in 2018 and served as a market planning specialist. In March 2020, the Company informed all staff via WeChat group that, before risk of the pandemic across the nation is completely eliminated, travelling out of the province requires reporting to the Company’s General Manager and any violation discovered will result in summary dismissal. The Employee replied “Noted” in the WeChat. Three days later, the Employee went back to work and did not report his trip to Sanya during the weekend. The Company’s HR discovered that the Employee had left the province. Then, the Company decided to terminate the Employee for not reporting cross-provincial trip. The Employee filed labour arbitration and litigation and requested the Company to pay indemnification for wrongful termination of employment contract. Shanghai Yangpu District People’s Court heard this dispute and ruled in favor of the Company. The Court came to this decision based on (1) the Company’s requirement of reporting cross-provincial trip was reasonable during the pandemic prevention and control period and shall be viewed as employer’s valid rules and regulations; (2) the Employee’s deliberate violation increased the risk of public health and safety; and (3) it was legitimate for the Company to terminate employment for the Employee’s failure of reporting cross-provincial trip.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
The employment termination in this case occurred in March 2020 when China was just hit by Covid and pandemic prevention and control measures across the nation were very strict then. However, as employers shall not collect personal information irrelevant to employment performance, after China relaxes its pandemic prevention and control measures, employers shall be cautious of disciplining employees for not reporting personal trip.