Art teacher sacked because her cat wandered into online presentation

NEWS AND COMMENT-CHINA: An art teacher, Luo, delivering an online presentation because of Covid, was sacked when her pet cat inadvertently entered the presentation and could be seen by students. In all the cat appeared five times but did not interfere with the lesson, the teacher said. She felt compelled to challenge the school for unfair dismissal.

Cat wanders into online class

Cat wanders into online class. This is a photo-edited image (by MikeB) and this not the teacher in question because there is no picture of her available.

In China your first step in this process is to go to an arbitration organisation – a labour arbitration committee. However, her employer, an education company, challenged her claim for unfair dismissal and therefore it had to go to a court where a judge made a decision.

To me, the outcome is exactly what I would expect. The teacher won her claim and was awarded £5,000 (40,000 yuan) because she was unfairly dismissed on the basis that employers engaged in online teaching should not be too demanding of their workers when they work from home as it is not the same as the office. These sorts of things might happen.

Common sense prevailed. The employer said that the appearance of her cat violated a clause in the teacher’s handbook, which I guess formed part of her contract. It banned non-teaching activities such as surfing the Internet. Personally, I do not see a connection between surfing the Internet and a cat wandering into an online lesson.

There must have been other instances of pets wondering into Zoom presentations. I can remember one lawyer delivering a presentation to a judge remotely when his cat jumped up onto his desk and was plainly in view. The judge took the whole event lightheartedly and joked about it. That should be the way it is dealt with. And another when the lawyer switched on a cat filter which made him look like a kitten.

RELATED: Lawyer seen by judge as a talking kitten in virtual court hearing

Employment has completely reconfigured itself post-Covid. Most companies allow flexible working conditions in which employees can work from home for a part of the week. Many courses are now delivered online not because of Covid because it is more economical and efficient to do so.

There will be many more cases of cats and dogs coming into the virtual classroom unannounced and uninvited. Employers should accept it as part and parcel of working from home. Sometimes they can actually improve the ambience of the virtual classroom and make it more fun. It is certainly not going to be detrimental unless something extraordinary happens.

It appears that this Chinese education company were far too dogmatic or perhaps they had designs to get rid of their teacher. They also argued that she had been late on the previous occasion. The question is whether they re-employed her which could seem doubtful.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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