|Native English instructors to get severance pay
By Chung Hyun-chae
강남노무법인 정봉수노무사가 코리아타임스 신문에 나왔습니다. (2015.6.12.일자)
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, Thursday, in favor of 24 native English instructors who demanded severance pay and other allowances from their employer.
The top court confirmed the ruling made by the Seoul High Court in November 2014 that language institute Chungdam Learning should provide weekly holiday allowances, annual paid leave and severance pay as the instructors were employees rather than contractors.
“According to the Labor Law, language instructors are employees who offer work as subordinates to the employer in a workplace to earn wages,” the court said in its ruling.
The court ordered Chungdam to pay a different amount of overdue pay for each teacher based on his or her work period.
“I’m proud of the court decision, for recognizing our employee status,” Andrew Krebsbach, one of the 24 teachers, said.
“Hopefully the precedent we set today will not only help other instructors win recognition as employees, and the legal protections that come with that status, but also act as a deterrent to other employers who purposefully misclassify workers in the belief they will be unable to fight for their rights,” he added.
Their battle began in 2011 when 26 native English teachers working at Chungdam Learning filed a lawsuit against the institute to demand overdue pay, claiming they were “permanent employees” of the institute. Two dropped the suit before the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
Chungdam appealed the decision, claiming that the teachers were independent contractors, not employees, who were not subject to benefits equal to those of the latter.
But the Seoul High Court cited the fact that teaching activities were tightly controlled by the institute’s management as key evidence to turn down the institute’s claim.
The final court decision will force Chungdam to renew the contracts of all the native English teachers at its 187 branches across the country _ as of December 2014, some 1,300 foreigners work for the institute.
Chungdam Learning was established in 1998.
“We have to discuss the details internally,” a Chungdam Learning official said, while declining to reveal details of follow-up measures.
The ruling recognizing instructors as employees is expected to affect other native English teachers across the country in that they will be entitled to benefits including holiday and severance pay.
According to the Ministry of Education, the number of native instructors working at academies all over the country was 13,294 as of July 2014.
“The decision is meaningful as the court finally recognized native English teachers as employees of academies,” Yun Hye-young from I&S Law Firm representing the teachers, said.
“I expect better working conditions to be offered to native instructors who have been poorly protected by Korea’s Labor Law as they stay here for a short time with permission for employment according to the Immigration Law,” she added.
Another labor attorney Jung Bong-soo from Kangnam Labor Law Firm agreed with her, saying that improving working conditions for foreign instructors would help raise the quality of English education in the county.
“Once more foreigners recognize that teaching English in Korea is a stable job, more well-educated and qualified instructors will apply,” Jung said.