October 4, 2011
The Supreme Court on September 30 dismissed an appeal filed by the world’s major camera maker Nikon and a temporary staffing agency, and finalized a lower court decision ordering them to pay a total of 70.5 million yen in compensation for the work-related death of a 23-year-old temporary worker.
The worker, Uendan Yuji, was sent from the temporary employee agency to Nikon’s factory in Saitama Prefecture in 1997. Two years later, he developed severe depression and committed suicide due to the excessive workload and long working hours.
His mother in 2000 filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding that the two companies pay 144 million yen to make amends for her son’s overwork-induced suicide.
In March 2005, the district court ruled that Nikon and the temp agency should make a compensatory payment of 24.88 million yen, acknowledging that Uendan killed himself because of overwork-induced depression and that the two companies failed to take necessary measures although deterioration in his health was readily apparent.
The Tokyo High Court in July 2009 also showed its recognition that the blame for Uendan’s death should be placed on the two companies, especially on Nikon which left Uendan in his condition of overwork, and decided to increase the amount of the compensatory payment by about 45 million yen from the previous court decision.
Appreciating that the high court decision was finalized, plaintiff’s lawyer Kawahito Hiroshi said, “The top court decision holds great significance in protecting workers’ lives and health and improving the working conditions of contingent workers, including temporary workers.”