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|Changes in company management direction, on top of harships suffered last year, can lead to additional stress for employees|
Information handed to VIR shows how one employee, who has since quit and is filing a lawsuit, had his desk searched and items removed while he was on sick leave, apparently to investigate violations of company policy. He was also allegedly barred from leaving the building at one point by two colleagues blocking the path to an elevator.
The incident, which was caught on CCTV footage shown to VIR, adds some weight to murmurs of discontent at the workings of the company in the past year. A new CEO and other senior leaders were appointed at the end of 2019 and potential changes in work culture, along with the lingering pandemic effects, have reportedly caused a number of workers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to quit after suffering from stress or depression.
A former head of marketing for the company in the country told VIR that she quit at the end of last year after officials searched her emails and other divergents. A human resources lead also explained how she left the role in the middle of last year with similar complaints. Both former LG workers said that many others were being forced to show their emails and hand over laptops, and several resigned from the company as a result.
Company documents sent to the employee who was barred from leaving a Hanoi building earlier this year said that he had used his annual leave without seeking permission. However, the worker said that he had submitted the three-week leave request to the company’s payroll app, along with submitting a medical certificate confirming that he was suffering from stress.
“I sent the medical certificate to the human resources division of the company. This was leave with proper cause, as stipulated in the Labour Code and the Law on Social Insurance,” the man explained.
After returning from leave, the employee had found his desk ransacked with his laptop taken, drawers emptied, and other documents removed. He claimed that no information was communicated towards him regarding the event and that no evidence corroborating his supposed misconduct has yet been provided.
Last month he submitted his resignation from LG and decided to file a lawsuit, claiming to have enough evidence to prove that the company violated his privacy rights and exerted pressure on him to force him to resign. He had previously worked for the company for 10 years.
“This was a violation of my privacy rights,” he insisted. “What if my private information was revealed or my property is lost? Someone should take responsibility.”
One former senior member of the company laid the blame for a seemingly poor working environment square at the feet of the new upper management team. “The new Board of Directors of LG is doing business in Vietnam without understanding or taking into account our laws as well as our lifestyles. I don’t know how they can survive if they carry on like this,” the ex-worker said.
Indicative of some level of turmoil at the company, when contacting LG Electronics Vietnam Haiphong, VIR received a terse reply from an unknown staff member who said that “the head of PR and marketing has quit and so no-one can answer media queries”.
LG Electronics Vietnam Haiphong is a South Korean-invested company which set foot in Vietnam in 1995 to manufacture and distribute electronics, appliances, and mobile devices. Besides the office at Landmark 72 in Hanoi, the company operates a billion-dollar factory complex in Trang Due Industrial Park in nearby Haiphong city.
Brian Kwon, former head of LG’s Mobile Communications and Home Entertainment arms, took the helm as CEO from December 2019.
Lai Ngoc Thanh-Lawyer Deputy director, LLA Legal
Items such as laptops, drawer contents, and documents on site are property of the company, and that company has the right to manage the usage of these items. However, deliberately seizing and checking such items, or logging into computers, emails, and others items the employee has without the agreement or presence of the employee in question are violating their privacy rights if they contain information related to their private life.
Article 21 in the 2013 Constitution of the country stipulates that everyone has the right to inviolability of private life, personal secrets, and family secrets; and has the right to protect his or her honour and reputation. The security of information about private life or secrets shall be guaranteed by law. Everyone has the right to privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, telegrams, and other forms of private communication. Also, no-one may illegally break into, control, or seize another’s correspondence, telephone conversations, telegrams, or other forms of private communication.
These rights are also noted in Article 38 of the 2015 Civil Code, which highlights the right to a private life and personal and family secrets – these are inviolable and protected by law. The collection, preservation, use, and publication of information about the private life of an individual must have the consent of that person; likewise, the collection, preservation, use and publication of information about secrets of the family must have the consent of all family members, unless otherwise prescribed by law.
The safety of mail, telephones, telegrams, and other forms of electronic information of an individual shall be ensured and kept confidential. The opening, control, and keeping of these forms of information may only be conducted in cases provided by law. Parties to a contract may not disclose information about each other’s private life, personal secrets, or family secrets that they know during the establishment and performance of the contract, unless otherwise agreed.
In case of infringement, the violators will be fined an amount of VND10-20 million ($435-870) according to Article 102 of Decree No.15/2020/ND-CP dated February 2020 stipulating penalties for violations in the fields of postal services, telecommunications, radio frequency, IT, and electronic transactions.
If violation causes serious consequences, they can be claimed for appropriation of another person’s mails, telegraphs, telex, faxes, or other documents which are transmitted via the postal or telecommunications network in any shape or form, according to the Article 159 of the Criminal Code 2015, which was amended in 2017.
If an employee requests leave in line with the company’s regulations along with a medical certificate from a hospital, and the company still claims “voluntarily leave” and applies penalties to that employee, the two sides enter a dispute on labour discipline. The current legal framework stipulates very clearly for employers what to do if disciplining employees. For example, discipline applies on violations/acts that are noted in regulations of the company, and the violations should be proven clearly. Discipline should be participated in by a local trade union, and the discipline should be recorded on minutes.
If violating any part of the above, disciplining the employee may be illegal. In that case, the employee is advised to file a complaint to the leaders of the company and contact a trade union or local labour federation for help on filing a lawsuit to protect his or her rights.