Woman fired after she refused to bow to her boss
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Finance manager lost her job after she refused to bow to her boss.
Misook McDonald 43, stopped bowing at the start and end of each day when they clashed after her duties were changed. When she protested at being ordered to make coffee, he retorted: ‘Isn’t that what female workers should do?’, an employment tribunal heard.
Mrs McDonald who has an English father and South Korean mother, is suing Dongbu Daewoo Electronics for sex, age and race discrimination.
She claims she was stripped of her role at the firm’s UK base in Winnersh, near Reading, and made to work in human resources and administration because she was neither pure Korean nor a white British man.
Mrs McDonald, from Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, had returned to work in 2014 after a career break to have her two children.
The problems began the following year after she was promoted to finance manager, earning R 617 105.76 a year and reporting directly to finance director Ho Seung Yoo.
‘He wanted me to be his eyes and ears. I was constantly called into his office,’ she told the tribunal in Reading. Mrs McDonald, who lived in South Korea until she was 12, had been the only bilingual Korean and English speaker in the company until a Korean woman joined her team – and Mr Yoo’s attitude to her allegedly changed.
‘I was not his preferred choice. I am also not considered pure as my father is English,’ she said. She was given secretarial duties while her role was taken by her new colleague, she said. Mr Yoo told her to show respect because the Korean woman was older, and to take pity on her as she had no children.
‘I know if I had been an older British white Caucasian male, Mr Yoo... would not dare to push me around so easily,’ she said.
She claimed she suffered sexist abuse from Mr Yoo after her solicitor sent a grievance letter. ‘As is usual protocol, I went to Mr Yoo’s office to bow goodnight to him. When I opened the door to make my bow, he was in an absolute fury,’ she said. A grievance hearing did not uphold her complaint.
Mrs McDonald was signed off work with stress. She told managing director Chong Park that she was being harassed by Mr Yoo.
‘He said Mr Yoo was very angry that I had broken protocol by not bowing to him,’ she said. ‘I replied that it wasn’t out of disrespect – it was because I wanted to avoid him. I didn’t want any opportunity for harassment to occur.’
Mr Yoo told the panel the suggestion that he demanded Mrs McDonald should bow was simply not true. Bowing is considered a custom in Korea but nobody in our UK office is required to bow. Some Korean staff choose to bow but it is entirely voluntary.
Asked whether he had told Mrs McDonald to make the coffee, saying ‘Isn’t that what female workers should do?’, Mr Yoo replied through a translator: ‘Yes I did say it. However, I was really sorry for asking that of her at the time.’