In June 2016, the Seoul Southern District Court ruled in favor of 97 former fixed-term contract employees of a broadcasting company who had been converted to indefinite-term employees. The employees had filed the lawsuit against the company to demand the same employment benefits, such as a housing allowance, that were available to regular indefinite-term employees who had not started on fixed-terms and been converted.
The plaintiffs had initially been hired by the company as fixed-term employees, and their contracts were extended to indefinite-term contracts. That, in essence, provides them with the same employment security enjoyed by other indefinite-term employees who were not initially on fixed-terms. However, as between the former fixed-term employees and the other indefinite-term employees, there were some discrepancies in terms of benefits and remuneration, including a housing allowance offered only to the latter group.
Article 8(1) of the Protection of Fixed-Term and Short-Term Employees Act prohibits unjustified discrimination against fixed-term employees, but this statute does not expressly cover providing inferior terms to employees who have converted from fixed-term to indefinite-term. As such, the parties' arguments focused extensively on whether their converted, former fixed-term status falls within "social status," which is listed in Article 6 of Labor Standards Act as an impermissible ground for discrimination.
The Seoul Southern District Court held that it did, and ruled against the company. The court reasoned:
If this decision is upheld on appeal, indefinite-term workers who have been converted from fixed-term contracts with restrictions on their available benefits will be able to demand equal treatment with other indefinite-term employees
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