Alibaba fires manager over alleged sexual assault, CEO calls for replacement

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. on Monday said it fired one of its managers accused of sexual assault.

The announcement and action were blasted by the state media as the company only made moves after the accuser went public. On Saturday, the assaulted female employee published an 11-page account on the company's intranet saying how her manager and a client sexually harassed her. She explained how she had reported the case to superiors and human resources five days ago but there was no serious response to the matter.

State media and online commentators were critical of the e-commerce giant's supposed delay in handling the case. In an editorial in the Global Times tabloid published  by People's Daily, Alibaba was accused of not offering a satisfactory answer to public opinion concerning it's manager's inaction toward the female employee.

After the matter was made public, Chief Executive Daniel Zhang wrote in a memo published on Alibaba's intranet, that the manager at the grocery delivery unit City Retail, Wang Chengwen said he was involved in intimate acts with an inebriated female employee and has been fired. He added that the company will never rehire the manager and the police were investigating the matter, according to Reuters.

"Whether he has committed rape or indecency that violates the law will be determined by law enforcement," the memo said.

The female employee alleged that Chengwen forced her to drink excess alcohol at a business dinner in July. She said she woke up naked in her bed in her hotel room the next morning, with vague memories of what happened the previous night, but remembered her manager kissing and touching her that night in her room. When apprehended, the manager admitted to his actions .

While the Jinan police continue their investigations, Alibaba said it will penalize the manager and other staff that knew about the matter after much clarity was gained on "some critical facts on the handling of the incident."

In her post, the female employee said she reported the matter to the head of business unit Li Yonghe, and the Human Resources chief Xu Kun. She asked for Chengwen to be fired following the incidence but there was no serious response given. Alibaba said that the two senior employees have since resigned.

"When the employee reported a horrendous act such as rape, they did not make timely decisions nor took appropriate action," Zheng wrote in the memo.

In addition to the sanctions, Alibaba Chief People Officer Judy Tong will be demerited. The CEO criticized the Human Resources department saying they didn't give enough attention and care to the matter.

"At the same time, an emergency response system was absent , and a severe misjudgment was made. In the event of a criminal investigation, they failed to suspend the relevant parties," Zheng said. "This indicates a problem in our culture and capacity building. Given this systemic problem, the leadership must be held accountable."

Going forward, Alibaba will start conducting company-wide training and sensitization on the protection of employee rights, including anti-sexual harassment. In addition, the company will "expedite the formation of anti-sexual harassment policy. He said the company is also strongly against the "ugly culture of forced drinking" referring to the female employee's account of being forced to drink alcohol by her supervisor.

Shares of Alibaba in Hong Kong were down 2.5% percent in afternoon trade following the news which has heaped much pressure on the company which is still facing scrutiny by regulators after a $2.8 billion antitrust fine some months ago.

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