• Kyodo

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The Osaka High Court on Friday affirmed a lower court ruling that upheld the right of two Nestle Japan group employees threatened with dismissal to refuse job transfers so they can care for ailing family members.

The court thus rejected the major food processor’s appeal of the May 2005 decision by the Kobe District Court’s Himeji branch, which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Presiding Judge Koji Oda of the high court said, “The job relocations could have led to family breakdowns. The hardships resulting from the job relocations significantly exceed the degree that should normally be tolerated, and constitute an abuse of the (employer’s) authority to order a transfer.”

According to the ruling, the two male employees were ordered in May 2003 to transfer from Nestle’s Himeji plant in Hyogo Prefecture to the company’s Kasumigaura plant in Ibaraki Prefecture because the section in which they worked in Himeji was scheduled to be shut down.

They were told they would have to resign if they refused the transfer. Their requests to be moved to a different section within the Himeji plant so they could remain and care for family members were turned down, the plaintiffs said.

The court recognized the need for the plaintiffs — a 56-year-old man whose wife was ill and a 50-year-old man whose mother, 82, suffers dementia — to care for their family members.

It determined that the orders to relocate were inappropriate as the employees could not reasonably be expected to leave their families behind for the posts in Kasumigaura.