NetEase, an internet company headquartered in Beijing, released two separate statements on Monday apologizing for its "simple and crude way" of discharging an employee who is suffering from serious heart disease.
"We paid him during his three-month sick leave and gave him compensation on Sept 19. But we apologize for the simple and crude, unsympathetic approaches and behavior in the process of his dismissal. Sorry, we were wrong," the statements said.
The company claimed in the statements that they first knew the employee was sick in May and dismissed him because of his poor work performance.
Early on Saturday, a former Net-Ease employee posted a story on a WeChat account, claiming that he was forced to leave the company after he was diagnosed with serious heart disease in late January with the excuse of "poor performance".
The employee, who didn't give any personal information about himself, said in the story that NetEase informed him of being unqualified for the job in late March because of his "poor work performance" in the past half year, which he disputed.
He said that his request for economic compensation for being laid off and a performance-based bonus for projects he was involved in was also refused by the company.
The former employee also said he experienced surveillance and was menaced in the office when he refused to resign. He was eventually forced to leave the company in September.
He said NetEase had promised to pay him compensation before Sept 9. When they did not pay, he applied for labor arbitration on Sept 17 and received compensation totaling 240,000 yuan ($34,000).
Li Ya, co-founder of Beijing Zhongya Law Office, said performance is an important measurement of an employee's worth, but it cannot be the direct reason for the termination of a labor contract, according to the labor law.
"The company should first have a sound staffing policy to inform the employee that performance assessment is closely related to the job. Also, a company can dismiss an employee if during a reassessment he/she is found to be unqualified for the job after offering them training courses or other positions available in the company."
Yao Junchang, co-founder of Beijing Weiheng Law Office, said that if the former employee's complaints are true, then NetEase did violate the labor law.
"According to the story, the employee served at the company for nearly five years after he graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2014," he said. "His five years of working experience won him a three-month medical treatment period when he became ill, according to the law, and the company can't dismiss him during this period without any excuse. However, we don't know if the company offered him the sick leave period."
The reason NetEase is offering for the dismissal may also be a breach of the law, according to Yao.
"If the company affirms that the employee is not qualified for the job, the company is required to send a written letter informing of the layoff 30 days in advance or pay the employee extra salaries based on how many years he/she served plus one more month," he said.
"The company can't unilaterally terminate the labor contract based on a single assessment of the employee's working performance," he added.
Yao also said that the company should follow legal procedures to cope with the dismissal rather than engage in poor behavior as described in the employee's WeChat story, which may lead to a worse result or even breaches of law.