On January 6, 2014, the Guangzhou Municipal Yuexiu District People’s
Court accepted the first household permit (hukou) discrimination case
ever heard in Guangdong province. In this case, the employer specified
in its online recruitment advertisement that the position was open to
persons with Guangzhou household permits only. One candidate with a
non-local hukou was rejected. He then claimed that he was discriminated
against based on his household permit status. After his lawyer reportedly
visited the court five times, the judges finally agreed to accept the case.
The final ruling is still pending.
In another case, the Beijing Municipal Chaoyang District People’s Court
refused to hear a claim alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation. The company’s CEO had made an offer of employment in a TV
show, but the company later refused to sign a contract, allegedly because
it found out that the candidate was gay. The court refused to accept the
case on technical grounds, reasoning that this was an employment case
and thus should be filed with the local employment dispute arbitration
commission first. The candidate’s lawyer argued that the candidate did not
form any employment relationship with the company, and thus, this should
be a civil case over which the court should have jurisdiction. However,
rather than challenging the court’s decision, the candidate was reportedly
preparing to submit his claim of discrimination to the local employment
dispute arbitration commission.
Under PRC law, discrimination against an employee or job applicant
on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, pregnancy, marital status,
disability, communicable disease carrier status, and migrant worker
status (i.e., workers who hold rural household permits but work in
urban areas), is prohibited. In practice, however, the majority of antidiscrimination
laws are not well understood or rigorously enforced by
the courts or relevant government agencies. In many circumstances, the
courts refuse to accept discrimination cases, presumably to avoid any
substantive analysis on sensitive discrimination issues. The above cases
show the general reluctance of courts to actively wade into this area.