The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) is facing criticism amid allegations of discrimination against a foreign employee and the implementation of internal security rules that allow monitoring of employees’ movement and Internet activity.
At the heart of the criticism is the case of Bo Tedards, who was removed from his duties as director of the foundation’s International Cooperation Department and reassigned as a researcher after returning from eight months of parental leave in January last year.
Tedards filed a complaint with Taipei City’s Department of Labor, claiming he had been discriminated against under the Gender Equality and Employment Act (性別工作平等法). He won his case, with the department fining the foundation NT$50,000 in August last year.
Department of Labor Commissioner Chen Yeh-hsin (陳業鑫) said after the ruling that an investigation by the department showed that Tedards’ transfer was related to his parental leave, adding that Tedards’ work contract had him down as director, contradicting claims by the foundation that he had always been a researcher and was concurrently a director.
TFD director Huang Teh-fu (黃德福), who had informed Tedards of his demotion — which came with a NT$10,000 reduction in salary — denied the reassignment had anything to do with Tedards’ parental leave and launched an administrative appeal with the Council of Labor Affairs.
After the council turned down the appeal on Jan. 20, Huang initiated legal action at the Administrative High Court against the city government.
Although such legal wrangling is not uncommon, the Taiwan Women’s Link and the Taiwan Labor Front, which rallied in support of Tedards, told a press conference on Friday that as a semi--governmental organization that supports freedom, human rights and democracy, the foundation should set an example rather than trample on the rights of its employees.
The groups said Tedards’ case served as a marker of the various kinds of discriminatory acts in the workplace, adding that the foundation should immediately restore Tedards to his old position and cease all legal action.
Tedards, who has worked full-time at the foundation since 2006, says that since his demotion last year, he has felt marginalized and excluded from any important work. He attributes the situation to the foundation knowing it has no legal basis for firing him.
Describing Huang’s appeal as practically unwinnable, Tedards called on the foundation to put things in perspective.
“Dr Huang should take a step back and consider the larger picture and the image of the foundation,” he told the Taipei Times yesterday.
Rather than pursuing a lost cause, “he should be more concerned about the impact on the foundation’s reputation,” Tedards said.
Since early last year, the foundation has also implemented a series of new regulations to keep tabs on its employees. Starting on Jan. 1 last year, all incoming and outgoing e-mails to TDF accounts are now automatically copied, a source told the Taipei Times. Sometime in the middle of 2010, a new electronic key for the foundation’s main door was allegedly installed, which logs employees who are now forced to swipe their cards in the morning, the afternoon and during lunchtime.
Starting on April 2, all visitors to the building must now officially register, and on April 12, employees were asked to create personal usernames and passwords to enable tracking of printing and copying. The foundation said the last measure was to save electricity.
There has also been talk that the foundation can track all Internet usage by its employees, though no official announcement of such a policy has been made.
Major revisions have also been made to internal labor regulations, which came into force on Nov. 1 last year. Those include a downward adjustment of benefits for employees from near-civil-servant levels to the minimum allowed under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
With additional translation by Jake Chung
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