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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 14 - 20  > Supreme Court OKs unequal treatment of regular and non-regular workers
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2020 October 14 - 20 [LABOR]

Supreme Court OKs unequal treatment of regular and non-regular workers

October 14, 2020
The Supreme Court on October 13 issued two rulings approving the disparities between regular and non-regular workers in terms of the payment of seasonal bonuses and retirement allowances.

One of the two court battles was launched by a woman worker in her 50s who worked as a part-time secretary at a laboratory of Osaka Medical College. In her lawsuit, she claimed that her duties were not any different from those of her co-workers with regular employment status, but that she was not entitled for seasonal bonuses just because of her employment status. In her second trial, the Osaka High Court ordered the university to provide her with 60% of bonuses paid to regular workers.

Overturning the lower court decision, the top court judged that it is not unreasonable for the university to offer bonuses only to regular workers on the grounds that these employees need to meet high expectations unlike non-regular workers.

In the other court battle, female contract workers working at subway kiosks in Tokyo complained about unequal treatment by their employer and demanded the payment of retirement allowances, which only regular kiosk staff can receive. In their second trial at the Tokyo High Court, Metro Commerce, a subsidiary of Tokyo Metro, was ordered to pay the plaintiffs one-quarter of the amount paid to regular staff.

The Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that non-payment of retirement allowances can be justifiable while saying that the plaintiffs’ duties were almost same as those of regular employees.

After the rulings, plaintiffs and their lawyers of the two lawsuits held press conferences in Tokyo. The plaintiff in the Osaka Medical College case said, “Today in Japan, two out of every five workers are low-paid, unstable non-regular employees. With the court battle, we tried to help narrow the gap in the working conditions of regular and non-regular workers. The court should pay more attention to the fact that as many as 21 million people are working under similar discriminatory conditions.”

Kamada Yukio, on behalf of her legal team, said that the top court ruling goes counter to the growing support against disparity in working conditions and disregards the principle of the law regarding part-timers’ working conditions and guidelines for their equal treatment.

Concerning the Metro Commerce case, one of the plaintiffs said, “The Supreme Court judged that we are not eligible to receive even one-fourth of regular workers’ retirement allowance. This is very sad. We are considered disposable labor.” Lawyer Takizawa Kaori said, “A dissenting opinion noted that there is little difference between the duties of the plaintiffs and regular workers and that not paying the retirement allowance is an unreasonable act of discrimination. This is the opinion that the Supreme Court should uphold.”

Past related articles:
> Ban on unequal treatment of regular and non-regular workers to be enforced [March 31, 2020]
> Non-regular postal workers sue Japan Post for its discriminatory treatment [February 15, 2020]
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