Chinese art teacher fired after cat appeared in her online class wins £5,000 in unfair dismissal case

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An art teacher in China's Guangzhou city has been awarded £5,000 in a legal battle over her unfair dismissal after her pet cat jumped in front of the camera during an online class.

The teacher, identified only as Luo, was conducting an online class in June last year, when her pet cat jumped into her camera’s view five times.

Lou’s employer, an education tech company that ran the virtual classes, fired her after citing the cat’s sudden appearances, which it said harmed “the image of a teacher”.

The company also cited prior cases of lateness and accused Luo of taking part in “non-teaching” activities during class.

The teacher had appealed the decision in an arbitration, but the company refused to compensate her and challenged the committee’s ruling in a trial court.

The company argued in court that the cat’s appearance allegedly violated a clause in the teachers’ handbook, which prohibits non-teaching activities such as surfing the internet, chatting and eating among other things during class.

Questioning the rule, the teacher responded by saying that the cat’s appearance did not interfere with the class.

Presiding judge Liao Yajing at the Guangzhou Tianhe People’s Court ruled that employers should not be “too demanding” if their staff is required to work from home during the Covid pandemic.

“The employer’s rules should not only comply with the laws, but should also be fair and reasonable,” the judge was quoted by Central Radio Network as saying.

“The home setting is not the same as the office,” she said.