Commentary: Court decision on maternity harassment lawsuit poses risks for legal recourse against labour abuses

Author: Mieko Takenobu, Women's Action Network, Published on: 19 February 2020

[Excerpt translation from Japanese to English provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

“Are there holes in the Anti-Power Harassment Law? The dangers posed by the High Court’s reversal on maternity harassment case”, 14 Jan 2020

...[T]hose celebrating the passage of the Anti-Power Harassment Law were dealt a blow with the Tokyo High Court’s decision on a maternity harassment lawsuit in November [2019]. In the case, the court took a stance that could limit workers’ ability to exercise their rights, such as ruling that audio recordings of conversations between employers and employees—crucial for proving workplace harassment—violated the civil codes.

The plaintiff in the maternity harassment case was a female instructor and employee at the language school operated by Japan Business Labo. She had a baby in 2013 and approached her employer after she was unable to find a preschool for her newborn during her maternity leave...

...Japan Business Labo states that if regular employees would prefer to become a contract worker when they return from maternity leave, they could change back to regular worker status at a later date...[The plaintiff] decided to become a contract worker for the company and returned to the office...following her maternity leave...

...In May 2015, Japan Business Labo filed a suit with the Tokyo District Court to seek legal recognition that the plaintiff was not a regular employee...On September 1, 2015, it officially told her that it would not renew her contract and filed another suit with the Tokyo District Court to seek legal recognition as a “former employee.” In response, the plaintiff filed a countersuit in October to be recognized as a regular employee...

A reason why this lawsuit has received particular attention is the growing number of employers who refuse to renew the contracts of employees, who...choose to become contract workers after maternity leave. Although employers argue that such practices are legal because they are not “firing” regular employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Law prohibits them from firing regular workers for reasons such as pregnancy and birthing a child, which fall under disadvantageous treatment. Furthermore, the Child Care and Family Care Leave Act requires employers to offer shorter working hours for employees with children under the age of three...

Read the full post here

Download the full document here

Related companies: Japan Business Lab