KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 ― The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) called today for the enactment of a law to protect pregnant workers, after a court slashed an award of RM300,000 in damages to RM30,000 for a woman in a landmark gender discrimination lawsuit against the government.
MTUC secretary-general N. Gopal Kishnam also said Malaysia should make it illegal for prospective employers to ask job candidates if they are pregnant.
“Pregnancy is birth and [a] human right ― wrong for anyone to criminalise a woman for not making it public,” Gopal told Malay Mail Online.
“Women are not prepared to reveal their pregnancy, fearing that they might not [be] given the job if the employers realise that the candidate is pregnant. So female jobseekers are giving priority to getting a job at all cost,” he added.
The unionist said Malaysia should follow the labour standards set in the International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention that prohibits discrimination against workers who are pregnant or are mothers.
On Monday, Shah Alam High Court judicial commissioner Datuk Azimah Omar reduced the awarded damages for Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin by 90 per cent to RM30,000 after finding the original sum of RM300,000 to be inappropriate and tantamount to a “handsome profit” for the 34-year-old.
The original RM300,000 awarded in 2014 was damages for breach of Noorfadilla’s constitutional right to gender equality, after she won a lawsuit in 2011 against the government for refusing to employ her as a temporary teacher back in 2009 when she had been three months’ pregnant.
Noorfadilla was not asked at the job interview in Hulu Langat if she was pregnant, but she was posed the question at a briefing two weeks later and her appointment was immediately revoked when she revealed her pregnancy.