When a Coast Guard official who took off his top in an office with female police officers was reprimanded, he filed an administrative lawsuit claiming it was unfair, but the court ruled that it was a lawful discipline.
Administrative Division 1-1 of the Incheon District Court (Chief Judge Lee Hyun-seok) announced on the 12th that it ruled that the plaintiff lost in the lawsuit filed by Coast Guard Officer A against the Commissioner of the Coast Guard to cancel the reprimand.
The court ordered Inspector A to “dismiss the request to cancel the reprimand and transfer in April 2022 and to pay all legal costs.”
Inspector A suddenly took off his top upon returning to his office after the superintendent promotion competency evaluation interview held at the main building of the Coast Guard in Yeonsu-gu, Incheon in December 2021. There were also three female police officers in her office at the time.
Another male police officer asked, “Why are you taking off your clothes all of a sudden?”, but Officer A stood in front of his desk talking on the phone wearing only his underwear. A female police officer who saw him took a picture with her cell phone.
In March of the same year, Police Chief A virtually forced female police officer B, who was suffering from poor health and workload, to take sick leave even though she did not want to.
He unilaterally notified, “I will take sick leave at the direction of the manager,” and Mr. B said he would work from home, saying he had a lot of work with a set deadline.
However, it was revealed that Inspector A ignored Mr. B’s opinion and instructed another employee to apply for his sick leave on his behalf, and he himself paid for it.
In April 2022, the Coast Guard gave Captain A a reprimand, equivalent to a light disciplinary action, for violating the duty to maintain dignity and duty of good faith, and also transferred him to a different workplace.
Then, Captain A filed an administrative lawsuit against the Chief of the Coast Guard three months later, saying, “The disciplinary action itself was excessive, but I was suddenly transferred to a place far away from my home due to disciplinary personnel, so I was effectively double punished.”
He claimed in the lawsuit, “I had to change my clothes in a hurry at the time, but there was a screen in front of my office desk,” and “another employee who happened to get up from his seat saw it.”
He added, “The application for sick leave was also made with Mr. B’s implicit consent,” and “It cannot be seen as coercion using authority.”
However, the court ruled that the actions of Captain A at the time amounted to damage to dignity, and that the resulting reprimand and transfer were legal.
The court ruled, “There was a restroom where the plaintiff could change clothes near the office where he worked,” and concluded, “It is reasonable to view this as an injury to dignity.”
At the same time, he explained, “There is no fact that Mr. B said he would use sick leave,” and “The act of forcing Mr. B to take sick leave against his will is a violation of the Coast Guard’s code of conduct, which states that unreasonable instructions should not be given.”
The court added, “Both (misconducts) are above reprimands according to the standards for disciplinary action,” and added, “The disciplinary action received by the plaintiff cannot be seen as a violation of the principle of proportionality or the principle of prohibition of excess.”
Reporter Kim Hyun-joo [email protected]
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