The Tokyo District Court on Monday ordered Japan Airlines International Co. to pay a combined 14.9 million yen in lost wages to four female flight attendants who were compelled to take unpaid off-duty days while raising children.
In the first court ruling on the level of responsibility a company bears for employees who are raising children, presiding Judge Akihiko Tsuchida said the nation’s top airline failed to provide appropriate work and wages for the working mothers.
“The request by the plaintiffs was limited to exemption from night shifts,” Judge Tsuchida said in his ruling, holding JAL International accountable for not offering daytime assignments to make work and child-raising compatible for its employees.
The suit, originally filed in June 2004, had claimed that flight attendants who chose to be absent from night flights were only given one or two duties a month, resulting in a significant increase in unpaid off-duty days and salary cuts for child-raising mothers.
The plaintiffs were demanding a combined 30 million yen to cover their lost wages.
“This is the first step in building a company that is friendly to child-raising mothers,” said plaintiff Sumiko Yasui, 46, the mother of a 5-year-old girl.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Kaori Omori called the ruling “a complete victory” for the four, in which the court for the first time “urged companies to aid working mothers.”
JAL International, which handles both domestic and overseas flights, indicated it will appeal the ruling.
The airline changed its night duty rules in 2003 and granted child-raising workers a right not to crew night flights, but also increased unpaid off-duty days for those exempted from late shifts.
Incomes for some female flight attendants with children decreased by one-third to one-20th of their original salary under the rule, according to the plaintiffs.
The Law Concerning the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members, including Child Care and Family Care Leave obliges employers not to require employees caring for a child of preschool age to work between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The airline’s counsel had claimed the law only exempts employers from requiring child-raising workers to engage in night duty and did not oblige them to offer supplementary daytime jobs.
They also claimed most of JAL’s flights included night-shift hours, and a small number of daytime flights had to be shared among child-raising flight attendants.
The plaintiffs countered that JAL’s treatment of its employees contradicted the purpose of the law to support working mothers and that the carrier forced female flight attendants to either quit or give up having children.