Dongguan court’s dubious ruling in Nokia HBV discrimination case

The Dongguan Intermediate People’s Court on 22 October 2008 ruled against a plaintiff who was seeking 50,000 yuan in psychological damages after being refused employment at Nokia (China) because of his Hepatitis B (HBV) status.

The court’s judgment was based on the plaintiff’s inability to prove that a tape recording of his conversation with a Nokia human resources officer named Miss Wei, who stated that he was not given the job because of his HBV status, was genuine. Nokia’s defense was that it had never employed a Miss Wei in its human resources department.

However, key evidence was not heard by the court. When the case was first filed in March last year, two journalists from the Yangcheng Evening News and the Zhengzhou Evening News independently telephoned the Nokia plant in Dongguan and both talked to a Miss Wei in the human resources department. Moreover, Miss Wei specifically told the Yangcheng Evening News reporter who was posing as a job applicant that: “A medical test is a necessary prerequisite for entering the company. We do not accept people with HBV.” (jin gongsi bixu tijian. daxiaosanyang buneng jieshou  进公司必须体检.大小三阳不能接受). The court apparently did not even scrutinize this compelling circumstantial evidence.

In March last year, a Nokia (China) spokesperson promised to investigate and rectify any errors made by staff members in this case. And Nokia now claims on its website that it has stopped testing for HBV as part of its pre-employment evaluation, and that it offers awareness training for staff and voluntary HBV vaccinations for employees in China. However, even after this stated policy change, another prospective employee claimed he was refused employment because he told the interviewer he had HBV. Moreover, Nokia still refuses to accept that it was at fault in the original case that promoted the policy change.


The term daxiaosanyang 大小三阳 refers to persons whose blood test indicates the presence of one of three pairs of antibodies and antigens related to Hepatitis B.

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