An online gaming company from New Taipei City (新北市) was recently fined NT$100,000 for violation of the Gender Equality in Employment Act (性別工作平等法) after it shrugged off a complaint by a female employee whose photograph was adapted by colleagues into a mock call-girl advertisement.
A photograph of the woman, identified only by an alias, “Niuniu” (妞妞), sticking out her tongue while triumphantly holding a squid she captured during an incentive tour in June last year, was changed into a mock pornographic ad in which the squid was digitally altered to make it look as though she was performing oral sex on a man.
Several indecent slogans in Japanese, including “The fall of innocence” and “I will suck the juice out of you today,” along with a title, “Adult’s Magazine,” were added to the picture.
After learning of the spoof photograph, Niuniu, 29, immediately lodged a complaint with the unidentified company, where she had been working as a receptionist since January 2011.
After her employer merely gave an oral admonition to the alleged pranksters, Niuniu filed a complaint with the New Taipei City Government’s Labor Affairs Department.
The department found that the company in question judged that the parody was “mere well meant teasing” and not a personal attack against Niuniu, citing the amiable atmosphere in the company’s customer service section in which Niuniu worked, as well as spoof pictures involving other employees from the section.
The company maintained that it only cautioned the parties involved not to further circulate and play up the prank picture showing Niuniu, in an attempt to avoid stirring hostility among coworkers by handing down punishments on a select few, the department said.
However, the department found that the image went a lot farther than those showing other members of staff.
In addition, Niuniu said that she felt it was unlikely that the prank was “well-meant.”
Niuniu said that she was referred to as “big fat sheep” (大肥羊) by her colleagues on the company’s internal communication system, who also collectively changed their online statuses to: “My biggest gain in this firm is getting to know big fat sheep Niuniu.”
Based on its findings, the department referred the case to New Taipei City Employment Discrimination Committee, which ruled that the company’s handling of Niuniu’s workplace predicament ran counter to the Gender Equality in Employment Act.
Labor Affairs Department. Deputy Director Hsu Hsiu-neng (許秀能) said the act stipulated that corporations set up a complaint channel and a committee charged with launching investigations into work-related disputes similar to Niuniu’s case.
Hsu said that employers should immediately implement concrete measures to put an end to unwanted situations and administer proper disciplinary action to concerned parties in the event of such disputes.
“However, the company in question failed to take adequate action, correct reprehensible deeds and to adopt remedial measures. The committee deemed this to be in transgression of sexual harassment policies and imposed a NT$100,000 fine,” Hsu said.
Meanwhile, Niuniu, who recently resigned from the company, has taken 10 of her former colleagues who were allegedly responsible for the photo prank and the insulting article to court, claiming an offense against personal reputation.