National

Nagoya court rules Toyota employee died from overwork

Kyodo

The Nagoya District Court ruled Friday that a Toyota Motor Corp. employee died from overwork in 2002, rescinding a labor ministry decision that deprived his family of pension benefits.

The three-judge panel found that Kenichi Uchino died Feb. 9, 2002, at age 30 after working about 106 hours of overtime in one month until the day before his death.

Presiding Judge Toshiro Tamiya said Uchino “was so tired that he could not play with his children,” acknowledging the causal relationship between Uchino’s death and his work at a Toyota auto plant in the city of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

The court acted on a suit filed by Uchino’s widow, Hiroko, 37, who demanded that the labor ministry decision be repealed.

Earlier, the Toyota Labor Standards Inspection Office, a unit of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, put Uchino’s overtime during the one-month period at about 45 hours.

It rejected the wife’s request next-of-kin pension benefits, dismissing her claim that the physical and psychological burdens of the work were the key reason for Uchino’s death.

Uchino, who joined Toyota, Japan’s top automaker, in April 1989, collapsed early on Feb. 9, 2002, and died of heart failure at a hospital.

At that time, Uchino was in charge of quality checking at Toyota’s Tsutsumi auto assembly plant.

Uchino was engaged in voluntary quality control activities, which Toyota argued were performed off the clock.

But Judge Tamiya accepted the wife’s argument that those activities were effectively within the scope of Uchino’s work at Toyota.