National

Mister Donut franchise ordered to pay family over employee's 'karoshi' death

Kyodo

A district court in Mie Prefecture has ordered the operator of a Mister Donut franchise to pay ¥46 million in damages, finding that the death of a store manager was a case of karoshi (death from overwork).

The manager’s family was seeking around ¥95 million in damages from confectionery maker Takeya Co., based in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. The Tsu District Court on Monday ordered a smaller amount, ruling that the male manager should have reduced the risk to his health by loosing weight.

The manager was put in charge of two outlets in Tsu in July 2011. He died in May the next year at age 50. Managing two stores at the same time increased his workload and forced him to work long hours, presiding Judge Osamu Okada said.

“It is appropriate to think that long working hours put a strain both physically and mentally and caused his death,” Okada said in the ruling, adding that the company failed to take any measures to reduce his workload.

But the court also noted that although the manager had been found to be overweight in a regular checkup, he did not take steps to improve his health.

During the trial, the company said the employee was in the position of managing stores and supervising staff. It said he worked long hours on his own accord and that the company had not forced the overtime. The company also noted his obesity as a health risk, claiming his death was not work-related.

According to the ruling, the man worked an average of 112 hours of overtime per month over the six-month period before his death. On the early morning on May 15, 2012, he died of arrhythmia while driving to work.

The labor standards inspection office in Yokkaichi confirmed in July 2013 that his death was karoshi.

At a news conference following the ruling, the family’s lawyer, Hirotaka Kato, said they were mostly happy that their claims were mostly accepted by the court.

“It was a significant ruling that acknowledged the danger of long working hours and the responsibility of the company,” Kato said.

He quoted the wife of the deceased as saying that the company should manage working hours appropriately. He added that she was disappointed that the damages were reduced.

Takeya said it will take the ruling seriously and continue efforts to improve working conditions.

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