University graduate sues education department over white blood cell count discrimination

A court in Yiwu, Zhejiang, has agreed to hear China’s first ever lawsuit against an employer for refusing to hire a prospective employee on the grounds of their white blood cell count, the Legal Daily reported 14 March.

The lawsuit, filed by a Ningbo University graduate, accuses the Yiwu municipal education and labour departments of denying him a job as a high school mathematics teacher because his medical examination indicated an abnormally high white blood cell count.

It is unclear precisely why the Yiwu education department would consider a high white blood cell count to be grounds for refusing employment but as other anti-discrimination lawsuits have shown, the medical knowledge of many employers is limited, and usually informed by rumour and false advertising rather than fact.

A research report published by the anti-discrimination group, Yirenping, in 2010 showed that employers who do not understand different medical conditions and the way different viruses are spread tend to err on the side of caution and refuse to employ anyone who might pose the slightest risk.

People with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) are the most common victims of discrimination on the basis of a medical condition. However, the lobbying and legal action of groups like Yirenping has now helped get people with HBV better protection under the law. People with HIV/AIDS have also been refused employment but at least two victims of discrimination have now successfully filed lawsuits against their prospective employer.

This latest lawsuit is yet more evidence that workers, especially younger more educated workers, are increasingly willing and determined to stand up for their rights and fight the widespread and systematic discrimination in the Chinese workplace.

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