The Tokyo District Court on Monday nullified the firing of five employees by IBM Japan Ltd. and ordered the company to pay their lost salaries.

The former employees said they were fired between July 2012 and June 2013 without adequate notice or proper reasons.

In his ruling, presiding Judge Toru Yoshida said the company “had no justifiable reasons,” for firing the five plaintiffs and had committed “an abuse of power.”

Although there were actually some signs of decline in their job performance, they weren’t strong enough to justify firing them because they were still competent enough to continue their work, the judge said.

The plaintiffs claimed they were suddenly called in by their bosses and handed just one or two weeks’ termination notice due to “poor performance.”

In the days following their dismissal, the company locked them out of the office and did not allow them to return.

Giving such short notice is rather common at foreign firms, but the Labor Standards Law states that employers must give at least 30 days’ notice before dismissal or pay the fired employee the equivalent of 30 days’ salary or greater.

“I believe the ruling this time was epoch-making as the court has put a brake on hasty U.S.-style layoff procedures,” Yosuke Minaguchi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said at a news conference after the ruling.

The plaintiffs also claimed that IBM Japan targeted particular union members to undermine the union’s power, but the court rejected this.

“I hope the decision this time will influence other cases concerning dismissal procedures in Japan in the future,” one of the plaintiffs said.

IBM Japan said in a statement Monday it was “extremely regrettable” its claim was not recognized by the court, and said it will decide on the next course of action after carefully examining the ruling.

In a separate case last July, the ministry’s Central Labor Relations Commission found IBM Japan guilty of breaking the Trade Union Law for firing employees without sufficient reason.

Information from Kyodo added

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