Malaysia: Pregnant woman wins landmark case

New Straits Times

The High Court yesterday ruled that pregnant women should not be discriminated from seeking employment. In a landmark ruling, judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof made her decision in favour of Noorfadilla Ahmad Saikin, who took the government to court to seek a declaration that pregnancy is not a reason for her to be denied employment as an untrained relief teacher.

In adopting the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Zaleha ruled that Noorfadilla had the right to be appointed as a relief teacher and that the revocation of her placement was unconstitutional.

Counsel Edmund Bon, who represented Noorfadilla, said the judge, in reaching her judgement, had cited Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution which stated that there shall be no discrimination on anyone based on gender.

The decision was made in chambers. Zaleha allowed the application without awarding any cost.

Noorfadilla, in an originating summons filed on May 7 last year, sought a declaration that the termination of her contract because she was three months' pregnant was illegal.

She named Hulu Langat district education officers Chayed Basirun and Ismail Musa, Selangor education department director Dr Zahri Aziz, the education ministry director-general, the education minister and the government as respondents.

In her affidavit-in-support, she said between February and March 2008, she applied to the Hulu Langat district education office for the untrained relief teacher position.

She was offered the job on a month-to-month basis starting in mid-January 2009.

She was subsequently told to report for duty, but the offer was withdrawn when she informed the Hulu Langat district education office that she was pregnant.

This is the first time a civil servant had taken legal action against the government over gender discrimination at workplace.

Bon was assisted by counsel Honey Tan and Chan Yen Hui, while senior federal counsel Aida Adha Abu Bakar appeared for the respondents.

Siti Kasim and Andrew Khoo held a watching brief for the Bar Council and Suhakam respectively.

By Rita Jong