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Chinese arbitrators rule against brain-damaged Foxconn worker

The father of the injured worker challenged the company's earlier demand that his son be moved or face loss of support for medical costs.

This is the gate of the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen. Jay Greene/CNET

Chinese labor arbitrators have ruled against the father of a Foxconn worker severely injured in a factory accident last year, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Zhang Guangde -- the father of Zhang Tingzhen -- took Foxconn to court in October, a year after his son was hit with a massive electrical shock while repairing a spotlight in Foxconn's Shenzhen factory. Zhang suffered major brain damage after falling 12 feet to the ground, an injury that required doctors to remove half of his brain to keep him alive.

Since the accident, Foxconn had been paying Zhang's medical bills. However, earlier this year, the company text-messaged his family, saying that his payments would be cut off unless he moves from the more-expensive Shenzhen area to Huizhou, which is 43 miles away.

Zhang Guangde argued that his son is incapable of traveling and said Foxconn, which has come under fire by the Fair Labor Association for its treatment of employees, should continue to pay for his son's medical bills. The company, however, had said that it would not pay for his bills in Shenzhen any longer because he wasn't hired there -- another claim Zhang's father rejected.

Chinese companies have been accused of hiring workers in low-wage areas to work in higher-priced cities to reduce expenses -- a practice Foxconn has denied following in Zhang's case.

The Shenzhen labor dispute arbitration committee ruled against the elder Zhang after the company produced a contract from August 2011 that showed his son was hired to work at Foxconn's Huizhou facility, according to documents reviewed Friday by Reuters.

Zhang's attorney said an appeal is planned.

In a statement to CNET, Foxconn asserted that the travel requirement is part of a government-mandated assessment process for a government-funded insurance policy. The company has since informed Zhang's family it would make up any difference in the cost of care covered paid by the government based on where he was hired and actual costs based on where he receives his care. However, a Foxconn representative would not confirm whether that offer would still apply if Zhang was unable to travel for the evaluation.

The company also promised that his place of employment would have no bearing on the level of support Foxconn offers to Zhang.

"Our company is providing financial and medical support that is above what is required by Chinese labor law because we believe it is the right thing to do and we want to ensure the well-being of Mr. Zhang and his family during this challenging time. We are also working with the family and medical experts to determine the long-term care and support that Mr. Zhang will need in order to ensure his medical and other needs are met," the company said in a statement to CNET.

Foxconn, which produces consumer electronics for companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sony, has come under scrutiny in the past few years amid reports of employees committing suicide at company facilities. The company has also been accused of employing underage laborers, providing poor living conditions at its dormitory housing, and overworking employees.