The Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed punishment issued by an Osaka aquarium, including suspensions, against two male managers for sexual harassment, overturning a high court ruling that said the penalties were too heavy.
The decision is the first of its kind by the Supreme Court.
The ruling is expected to affect companies that have applied in-house penalties for sexual harassment in line with guidelines under the equal employment opportunity law.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan suspended one man for 30 days and the other for 10 days and demoted both in February 2012 over remarks they made to two temporary female employees.
The courts found that the men, in their 40s and holding managerial positions, repeatedly made sexual comments, including a story about extramarital sex. The victims were in their 20s and 30s.
The men also made remarks such as “girls should cling to men,” or that their “sexual urge gains every year.”
The two men filed a suit against the penalties with the Osaka District Court, complaining the aquarium imposed the second-heaviest punishment possible without any advance warning. The harshest penalty is dismissal.
The district court ruled that the penalties were appropriate, finding that the managers’ comments were obscene and malicious. It also said the women were in a particularly vulnerable position because they were temporary employees.
However, the Osaka High Court ruled that the punishments were too heavy and accepted the men’s complaint. The high court said even though the remarks constituted serious sexual harassment, the aquarium’s action was questionable.
The Supreme Court ruling described the penalties as appropriate.