Smartphone communication apps — use in moderation. (file photo/Cheng Bo-ren)
The first case of karoshi (sudden death from overwork) by text message overload has struck Taiwan, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper China Times.
The victim is a 42-year-old female, who passed away after the 24-hour bombarbment of messages from her employer demanding her to finish her assigned work gave her a stroke. She was a media relationship consultant representing a US company in Taiwan and the two work shifts — one on standby at night because of the half-day time difference — drove her body to the brink of collapse. Coupled with WhatsApp messages sent to her by her boss during off hours, it was only a matter of time before she had a stroke. After a month in coma, she passed away.
It is becoming common for companies in Taiwan to create group message boards with text apps such as Line or WhatsApp so as to assign jobs and manage staff efficiently. The convenience, however, is apparently being abused.
According to the president of Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link (Taiwan OHS Link) Cheng Ya-wen, employees maintain the right to refuse a job assigned during off time.
Huang Yi-ling, CEO of Taiwan OHS Link, said that the organization received a report from the family of the deceased woman and intervened. Initially the company refused to admit that they had caused her death, but the family showed the woman's WhatsApp records, full of messages like, "send me the proposal of today's activity" or "how many media covered today's activity?" all sent after 10pm.
The court ruled in favor of the employee and demanded the employer pay a compensation of US$65,570 to the family.
The head of the Ministry of Labor's Department for Occupational Injury Compensation Chen Jui-min said that if the employer assigns jobs through communication apps or telephone, the employee can take down the time spent on the job through the phone or apps record and ask for overtime pay.
Labor Standards Law regulates that the employer must pay overtime pay if given work outside of their standard working hours through communication apps or telephone. Violaters of the regulation will be fined between US$660 - $10,000.
Cheng Ya-wen 鄭雅文
Huang Yi-ling 黃怡翎
Chen Jui-min 陳慧敏