Court rules discrimination against married women workers as illegal

The Osaka District Court on June 27 ruled that it is illegal for a company to discriminate against workers who are married. This was the first ever judgment in a lawsuit of this kind in Japan.

Twelve married employees of Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. in 1995 filed a suit against the company and the government, claiming that they are discriminated in salary and promotion compared with unmarried women employees. The plaintiffs demanded that the insurance company pay compensation and the balance of wages, and that the government compensate for failing to launch arbitration into the case.

The judge said that Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. violated the Labor Standards Law by giving unfavorable treatment to married workers on the grounds that they took maternity and child care leaves, and ordered the company to pay 90 million yen (about 700,000 dollars) in compensation. But the court turned down the claim for state compensation.

Eighty-two percent of single women employees of the same age as the plaintiffs were awarded managerial positions, while only six percent of married workers got such positions. The maximum monthly salary gap between married and unmarried was 470,000 yen (about 3,600 dollars).

Today, about 40 percent of all workers in Japan are women. But discrimination against women workers persists in their promotion and wages.

The discrimination consequent to marriage, pregnancy, and birth remains unchallenged in many workplaces. In accordance with the custom, about 20 percent of workplaces push women to leave on the occasion of marriage or giving birth.

The court decision will encourage many people who wish for a society free of discrimination against working women, and help correct the unfavorable treatment against them in workplaces.

The judge referred to the Japanese Communist Party in the Diet criticizing Sumitomo Life Insurance for suggesting early retirement upon marriage.

The JCP calls for a society which gives all women and men a chance to display their abilities. Together with the people, the JCP pursues progress in women's rights and equality. (end)