OSAKA — The Osaka District Court has dismissed a suit filed by three female employees of Sumitomo Chemical Co. seeking a total of 160 million yen in compensation from the company for wage differences between them and their male colleagues covering nearly four decades.
The plaintiffs, Yoko Arimori, 57, who worked at the company’s factory in Ehime Prefecture, Kinuko Ishida, 56, and an unnamed employee, both from the company’s Osaka headquarters, had argued that they suffered discriminatory treatment in terms of wages and promotions because they are women.
The three noted that their male colleagues who joined the major chemical manufacturer in the same year and with similar academic qualifications advanced faster and received higher salaries.
Presiding Judge Tetsuo Matsumoto, in his ruling Wednesday, admitted that there was “a significant wage difference between the three and their male counterparts,” but he dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying they had failed to take opportunities to advance their careers.
“The plaintiffs were given chances to get the same treatment in terms of wages and promotions as their male counterparts, by taking and passing examinations, which would have put them on the main career track from the subordinate line of jobs,” Matsumoto said.
The plaintiffs joined Sumitomo Chemical between 1962 and 1968 after graduating high school.
In 1970, the company introduced a dual-track employment system with one path for future managers and the other for subordinate careers, as well as a system for career-track transfers. The three women were placed on the subordinate track.
By 1999 the wage difference between the plaintiffs and their male counterparts had reached 150,000 yen to 210,000 yen a month, the court said.
The plaintiffs insisted the company’s recruitment system at the time was “based on sexual discrimination” and was illegal. But the court dismissed the claim.
“The system cannot be said to be offending public order and morals, considering the social consciousness concerning gender roles at the time,” the court said.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys blasted the ruling as being “almost criminal.”
“The court has a sexist view,” the attorneys said in a statement, insisting their clients intend to appeal.
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