Court rules against gender discrimination at a major electronic cable maker

After eight years of court struggle against gender discrimination, two women employees at a major electric wire and cable manufacturer have won an out-of-court settlement with the company in the Osaka High Court.

In the settlement mediated by the Osaka High Court, Sumitomo Electric Industries agreed to the promotion of the two workers to higher posts and paid them five million yen each in settlement money.

In March 1994, 55-year-old Nishimura Katsumi and 53-year-old Shirafuji Eiko sought Labor Ministry arbitration aimed at having the company comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. They argued that they were seriously discriminated against for more than 30 years based on sex in wages and promotion compared to male workers with the same job experience and academic background. After their application was rejected by the Osaka office of the Labor Ministry, they filed a lawsuit with the Osaka District Court in August 1995. The district court in July 2000 ruled that the gender inequality in employment was in contravention of Article 14 of the Constitution but turned down their claim, saying that Sumitomo's practices "were not in conflict with public standards in light of social circumstances of the time."

But the Osaka High Court ruled that "accepting the discrimination on the premise of past social standards will be contrary to social progress," thus paving the way for the settlement at this time.

Nishimura and Shirafuji, who have called for improvement of women's social status in the courts, held a news conference with their legal team and expressed their satisfaction with the settlement.

Nishimura said, "I believe that the settlement is significant in that it will effect similar disputes that may arise in the future. I'm glad to hear that four more female Sumitomo Electric workers have also been promoted to higher positions."

Shirafuji said, "I'll keep fighting against discrimination against women until it disappears." (end)

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