Nomura Securities Co. was ordered Wednesday by the Tokyo District Court to pay 56 million yen in consolation money to 12 female employees for the mental pain inflicted by the securities firm’s discriminatory employment system.

The system remained in effect even after the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was revised in a bid to eliminate gender discrimination in 1999.

It is the first time a court has ruled as illegal an employment system that automatically places men on a managerial track and women on a secretarial one.

“The firm made a mistake by continuing the discriminatory employment system even after the legal revision took effect,” presiding Judge Yukio Yamaguchi said. “The discriminatory treatment against the plaintiffs is unreasonable and against social order.”

The 12 employees filed the suit against Nomura, the nation’s largest securities firm, in 1993, seeking a total of about 700 million yen in compensation for promotion and wage differences between the plaintiffs and their male colleagues over a period of about 10 years since January 1991. Four of the plaintiffs had retired by the end of January.

The court recognized that the plaintiffs, who joined the firm between 1957 and 1965, had been automatically assigned a course of general duties simply because they are women. Their male colleagues had been automatically put on the managerial track.

Consequently, the male workers with similar academic and career backgrounds advanced faster and received higher salaries, the court said.

The court added that the disparity in wages and promotions were caused by Nomura’s employment system, which groomed men to deal with demanding tasks and future management positions while women, including the plaintiffs, were expected to accept smaller tasks.

But the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that the company should compensate them for monetary losses caused by wage differences.

Although a dual-career track system based on gender violates Article 14 of the Constitution, the court said it did not contradict the social order and morals of the 1950s and 1960s, when the plaintiffs joined the firm, and that there was no obligation for the firm to treat men and women equally when they were hired at that time.

The plaintiffs joined the firm after graduating from high school, and the wage differences between the plaintiffs and their male counterparts have reached 3 million yen to 4 million yen annually, according to lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

After the ruling, Hisako Konno, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that Nomura should improve its discriminatory dual-career track system immediately.

She also said the compensation award is too small, considering their suffering and the gap in wages compared with their male counterparts.

The plaintiffs will appeal to a higher court, she said.

After hearing the ruling, Nomura Securities issued a comment stating, “the firm was disappointed that the ruling did not admit its claim entirely and will consider an appeal to a higher court. “

The 12 are part of a group of 13 plaintiffs, including a former employee who filed a similar suit in 1998. The court dismissed her claim because she retired before the legal revision took effect.

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