Osaka subway drivers sue over right to grow a beard


Two Osaka subway drivers have sued the city’s municipal government after their bonuses were cut because they refused to shave off their beards.

“Growing a beard is part of individual freedom, just like choosing clothes or hairstyles,” said a lawsuit filed Wednesday with the Osaka District Court.

“The city’s grooming standards violate this freedom guaranteed under the Constitution.”

Both men are in their 50s and are employees of the Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau. They are seeking ¥2.2 million each in damages for mental suffering, along with payment of the missed bonus component.

The two men had beards for more than 10 years when the transportation bureau in 2012 introduced grooming standards that banned them. The policy was prompted by then Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Because the drivers refused to comply, they received lower personnel evaluation ratings that reduced their bonus payments, the lawsuit said.

“I have never neglected to groom my beard and never received complaints from passengers about my beard,” one plaintiff told a news conference. “I just can’t accept to be told I am badly groomed just because I grow a beard.”

The Osaka Bar Association has urged the transportation bureau to scrap the no-beard rule, calling it a violation of human rights.

Commenting on the lawsuit, Hirofumi Yoshimura, the current mayor of Osaka, said the standards were “for letting passengers use the subway pleasantly” and were “not excessive.”

  • Don Corleone

    If you saw the grooming habits of NYC subway conductors/bus drivers you would wonder if they were even human. But hey, the beard is nice, give this guy a break.

  • 151E

    Good on ‘em. I’d be tempted to grow a beard too simply to show my contempt for arbitrary restrictions of personal freedoms that do not impact job performance. I’ll be curious to see how the courts rule on this.

  • thegame

    the standards were “for letting passengers use the subway pleasantly” and were “not excessive.”

    can this even get more stupid? thank goodness my employer doesn’t have this idiotic policy, i would have been jobless for….the rest of my life actually, since i have grown my beard even before graduating from university.

  • philnolan3d

    Well, businesses in America have rules about tattoos and facial piercings, some don’t even let girls wear earrings. Though I think most will allow a beard as long as it’s trimmed neatly.