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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.