Japan: Pub chain Watami reaches settlement over case of worker suicide
The pub chain Watami has reached a settlement with the family of a woman who had committed suicide in 2008, two months after starting work with the company. She had worked over 140 hours of overtime per month during those two months, including work she needed to take home. Under the terms of the settlement, Watami will pay JPY 150 million (approximately USD 1.3 million), which is significantly more than the usual level and, unusually, includes punitive damages. The company will also provide a full, public apology, and take measures to prevent overwork related suicides in the future, including stricter controls on overtime. Watami will also pay all employees who joined the company between 2008 and 2012 a one-off payment of JPY 25,000 (approximately USD USD 220) for unpaid overtime. In July 2009, the Yokohama Labour Standards Office had initially refused to recognise the worker's suicide as work related. This decision was overturned on administrative appeal in February 2012, leading eventually to the court case.
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Author: Jiji, Kyodo
... Mina Mori, 26, killed herself in June 2008, two months after beginning work with the company. She was forced to work long shifts until the early hours and often then hung around until the first train. Her overtime was found to be in excess of 140 hours a month.... Mori was assigned to an eatery where shifts would begin in the afternoon and last more than 10 hours. This became her daily routine. Coming off shift in the early hours, Mori had missed the last train home, and since the company would not pay for a taxi, she would often wait at the workplace overnight. Even during holidays, Mori was required to take training sessions early in the morning and would spend long hours preparing daily reports or memorizing the company’s credo, created by Watanabe. In May, a month after being hired, Mori left a note: “My body hurts. I feel exhausted. I feel emotionally numb. I can’t move as fast as I want to. Please help me, somebody help me,” she wrote.