Last week, employees reported that Japanese social gaming giant GREE had just announced it was shutting down its entire China branch, and laying off the entire staff. This news was subsequently confirmed by GREE, and the only remaining question seemed to be how GREE would compensate its employees.
A week later, that question remains unanswered, as GREE’s proposed settlement has left many employees unsatisfied. One worker told the Beijing Times that part of the problem is that many employees put in massive amounts of overtime with the expectation that this dedication would be rewarded in the long run, and that GREE’s compensation plan doesn’t account for that. But a company spokesman told the paper that dissatisfied employees were a small minority of the total staff at GREE China.
But the real trouble for GREE from a PR perspective is that one of the laid-off employees is eight months pregnant. According to her, the loss of her job means the loss of access to pregnancy insurance she’s been paying into for ten years in addition to a maternity leave allowance, and GREE executives and the company’s lawyer have reportedly said they will not be offering her any additional support. (We’ve contacted GREE to see what they say about this and will update this post when we hear back from them). The woman says she has already filed a labor dispute with the relevant authorities in Beijing. A Beijing-based lawyer told the Beijing Times that GREE’s refusal to offer her additional support may violate Chinese labor laws, which make it difficult to terminate the contracts of pregnant women without offering significant additional compensation.
Whatever GREE ultimately decides (or is forced by the law) to do, the report has already damaged the company’s reputation. On weibo, the pregnant woman’s story has been reposted hundreds of times, and almost all the comments are in support of her rather than the company. It’s hard to believe that GREE couldn’t have seen this coming.
Frankly, whatever the law says shouldn’t matter much one way or the other; GREE stepping up to help out this woman ought to be a no-brainer, and I expect we’ll see it do that soon. Even if the law is on your side, it’s never good to bully a pregnant woman, and if paying for one birth and some extra months of maternity leave is what it takes, then GREE should just chock that up as part of the cost of shutting down its China office rather than trying to fight it in the legal system (and destroying its own reputation in China in the process).
(Beijing Times via Sina Tech)