|Bus drivers on standby for their next shift in Yongin Gyeonngi Province. Korea Times file|
By Kim Hyun-bin
The Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling against Kwak Noh-sang, former head of KORAIL Networks, stating that he did not violate labor overtime regulations, Tuesday, which sends the case back to the lower court for a retrial.
The ruling also overturned the lower court decision to fine Kwak 500,000 won ($410).
By law, all companies with over 300 employees needs to abide by the government-set 52-hour workweek.
A bus driver surnamed Yoon worked for KORAIL Network and operated a shuttle bus between Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province, to Sadang in southern Seoul, but was fired due to negligence including absence without notice. In May 2017, he filed a lawsuit claiming the company made him work 59.5 hours a week, which exceeds the government-set 52-hour workweek regulation.
Yoon had a schedule to work every other day and by law he was allowed to work below 14 hours and 52 minutes on work days, but prosecutors claimed he worked 18 hours and 53 minutes.
By law, working hours are stated as the actual time the employee has worked, and recess time needs to be looked into for each individual to see if it could be included as working hours.
The top court evaluated the working and recess hours of Yoon and ruled it did not violate the law, upholding the very first trial ruling.
"The prosecutors claim Yoon worked 59.5 hours which includes work hours and downtime, but there is no evidence of Yoon working while he was waiting for his next bus shift," the first court ruled.
However, the second trial overturned the first court ruling claiming there were legitimate reasons to count Yoon's break time toward calculating whether he worked over 52 hours per week.
"During break time, he has time to relax as well as refuel, wash and clean the bus, and considering these aspects it is difficult to say he used most of the time to rest," the second court ruled.
But the top court overturned the second court ruling stating lack of evidence.
"He was said to work 18 hours and 53 minutes every other day, but it seems a minimum of six hours and 25 minutes of free time was given without intervention or inspection from the company," the top court said. "Yoon's claim that he worked overtime is insufficient, so we will send the case back to the lower court for a retrial."