Teacher fired after getting the swine flu

Now here's a story that makes us scratch our heads. Brian in Jeollanam-do broke the story, and the Midnight Runner has done an excellent podcast with the teacher supposedly affected.

The Canadian teacher, only identified as 'Mark' had been on vacation in Thailand, then returned to Korea. He began feeling sick about 4-5 days after returning to Korea (though 'Mark' never mentions having a week of quarantine, which has quickly become standard procedure for most schools too worried about foreign teachers getting sick). From the podcast, his hagwon asked him to come into work even though they knew he was sick.

'Mark' got his testing done, was asked to stay at home as a precaution. He was treated with Tamiflu, and went back to work since he was feeling better. He was eventually diagnosed with swine flu, and the clinic called the school to inform them. The hagwon responded by telling him not to come in, and that they may have to shut down the school, test all the teachers, inform the students, and so on. Perhaps the school suffered big losses as Mark suspects, or several students quit the school as he seems to imply. Although none of the teachers or students got infected, it sounds as though enough students quit (or threatened to quit), and 'Mark' was eventually fired.

At this point, 'Mark' began talking about money. Here's where the story gets interesting for me personally. On the podcast, he began talking about getting his severance pay, a flight home, and getting paid for the three months remaining on his contract. He called the Labor Board, only to find out that the school doesn't need to pay your severance pay (which is true - you have to be employed for at least a year before you can get your money out) or your flight home (which is not obligatory by the school - it's in most contracts that they arrange your trip home after your contract is complete). As for the time left on his contract, I'm not sure if he seriously expects an employer to pay for work not done. Sorry, it's a seriously sucky situation, but getting money you haven't yet earned is highly unlikely at best. Contracts are not intended to serve as a guarantee of future earnings, nor does a one-year contract actually mean you'll be paid for that entire year.

The swine flu has made many in this country paranoid - some to the point of being concerned even after being cleared by a doctor (according to the story, that was the case). The parents do have a right to be concerned if there was a chance of their kids getting sick - but getting cleared by the doctor and following the respective quarantine rules should have been enough. I can imagine enough parents freaking out and demanding the school get rid of him - even though he presumably no longer posed a threat. There might a case out of 'wrongful termination' - but fighting a local businessperson able to hand out white envelopes understand the court system will be like pushing a boulder up Mount Everest.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe - 2009