The union at Seoul’s Lotte Hotel won a landmark sexual harassment case when a Seoul court ruled on November 26 that the hotel was accountable for the sexual harassment of employees.
The legal action was initiated in August 2000, following a 74-day strike over casualization and trade union rights which was marked by massive police violence. The Lotte Hotel Union is affiliated to the IUF through the Federation of Private Service Workers Unions. The IUF and its affiliates gave strong international support to the Lotte Hotel Union, which concluded its successful strike by signing an agreement which included, among other things, mechanisms to prevent retaliation by individual managers named in a sexual harassment suit filed by female employees. The CBA also established a joint union/management committee to investigate all harassment charges.
The Seoul District Court ruled in favor of 40 female workers who filed suit against seven company executives, the president of the hotel and the company, and ordered the hotel to pay compensation.
In its decision, the court highlighted the company’s responsibility for failing to prevent sexual harassment in the high-risk environment of the hotel. Legal action to correct harassment is unusual in Korea, and the decision, according to the Korea Herald, “is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the business world because it recognizes management’s responsibility for turning a blind eye to sexual harassment at work.”
Earlier this year, women workers at the Cheju Island Paradise Casino won a major recognition battle in a similar fight for casual workers’ rights and went on, like the Lotte Union, to negotiate a CBA including measures to combat sexual harassment.