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Ex Asiana Airlines CEO Fined For Denying Menstrual Leave

Asian woman suffering from period cramps

In justifying his denial of 138 requests for time off by his South Korean female employees, the former CEO argued the women had not provided proof they were menstruating.

According to the BBC  between 2014 and 2015 Kim Soo-cheon, the former head of South Korea’s Asiana Airlines, turned down 138 requests from 15 flight attendants for menstrual leave, an employment benefit protected by law. Since 1953, South Korean women have been allowed to take one day a month off if they suffer painful periods.

Kim was taken to court over his frequent denials. He maintained in court that there were “many suspicious cases” of employees requesting menstruation leave around holidays, and argued that the women wouldn’t prove they were menstruating. (The BBC did not report on what such proof would have entailed).

In 2017, a lower court found against him, noting that even asking employees to prove they were having their periods could “infringe upon privacy and human rights.”

He appealed, but a higher court has just upheld the lower court’s decision and fined Kim for violating the women’s right. Not that the punishment was very stiff. According to the BBC, the ex-CEO was fined almost $1,800.

Menstrual leave, which is also enshrined in employment law in Japan, Indonesia, and Taiwan is controversial. Supporters argue it simply recognizes a biological process and its impact on female employees. Critics maintain the leave reinforces negative stereotypes about female workers and could discourage employers from hiring women. (Although no nation specifically includes trans people in these laws, some companies offering menstrual leave have trans inclusive language.)

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Jacob Anderson-Minshall