A subsidiary of Japanese glass-maker AGC has lost a lawsuit filed by a female clerical worker seeking damages for indirect gender discrimination.

Tokyo District Court on Monday ordered AGC Green-Tech to pay ¥3.7 million to the 44-year-old plaintiff, who claimed that the company practiced gender discrimination by limiting the use of its corporate housing program to its career-track employees, who were all men.

The revised equal employment opportunity law, which came into effect in 2007, prohibits so-called indirect gender discrimination by employers, such as imposing requirements that are difficult for women to meet in order to exclude them.

As of 2020, AGC Green-Tech had 20 career-track employees, all of whom were men, and six clerical workers, five of whom were women, said the ruling by presiding Judge Takuro Bessho. The Tokyo-based company allowed only career-track employees to use the corporate housing program.

According to the ruling, read by another judge on behalf of Bessho, the different treatment between career-track and clerical employees did not constitute direct gender discrimination.

But the program, included in the company's employee benefit package, "was practically applied only to men," the ruling said, concluding that the company practiced indirect discrimination by giving a disadvantage to women without a rational reason.

The ruling also said that it was illegal to continue the measure without taking a corrective action.

"I've received a long-awaited answer," the plaintiff told a news conference, welcoming the ruling. "I want (the company) to realize a workplace free of discrimination where women can express their opinions and demonstrate their abilities more."

"This is believed to be the first ruling in Japan to recognize indirect gender discrimination," lawyer Kota Hirai said. "It's epoch-making."