Shiba Shinkin women win payout

Sexual discrimination costs credit association 223 million yen

A group of current and former female employees of Tokyo credit association Shiba Shinkin Bank won a landmark settlement Thursday after their employer agreed to pay 223 million yen in compensation for sexually discriminating against them when deciding on promotions.

The settlement, mediated through the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court, is in line with a 1999 revision of the equal employment law, banning discrimination in recruitment, promotion and job assignment.

The 13 plaintiffs, six of whom had already retired, filed the lawsuit in 1987, claiming the bank had not promoted them, implemented wage differentials between males and females, and promoted male employees on the basis of seniority.

The plaintiffs are between 52 and 69 years old.

Under the settlement, the bank will effectively promote six of the plaintiffs to section chief status and pay money to make up for wages and other allowances to the six retirees that should have been paid them had they been promoted to those positions.

A plaintiff who was not covered by the compensation because she has worked for a shorter period than the other 12 will be guaranteed a chance to take a promotion exam.

The Tokyo District Court ruled in 1996 that the bank should promote the 12 to section chiefs and pay them 110 million yen. The Tokyo High Court said the bank should pay them 180 million yen, including consolation money.

Shiba Shinkin Bank had divided employees into six ranks and conducted internal examinations for promotions. Salaries were based on rank and qualifications.

The plaintiffs claimed that the in-house examination violated the Civil Code in that it discriminated against women.

They argued no female employees had ever passed the exam, although almost all male employees pass it in accordance with their seniority. They blamed the system for the widening wage gap between male and female employees.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs welcomed the settlement, saying, “We expect the settlement to improve working conditions in Japanese companies, not a few of which still discriminate against female employees.”