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Japan Co. Told to Pay Female Workers

February 20, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ A Tokyo court ordered Nomura Securities Co. on Wednesday to pay $420,000 in compensation to 13 women who accused the brokerage of sexual discrimination in promotion and pay.

The women had demanded $5 million including back pay in a lawsuit filed with the Tokyo District Court in December 1993. They plan to appeal, said Hisako Konno, their lawyer.

``Japan is still very behind the times in sexual equality on the job,″ she said in a telephone interview. ``The double standard rampant in big Japanese companies must be corrected.″

The court case underlines the serious discrimination that women face in the workplace in the world’s second-largest economy. Although laws have been passed to ensure on-the-job gender equality, a corporate culture that favors men runs deep.

During the trial, Nomura argued it had assessed the women as individuals and did not discriminate. It is studying whether to appeal, the Tokyo brokerage said.

The women _ employed as clerical workers for more than 30 years at Nomura, Japan’s biggest securities company _ were fighting a system that treated them unfairly from the start.

Initially, pay scales were separate for men and women. In 1986, Nomura adopted a new pay scale that separated workers into two categories. But the division ran clearly along gender lines _ with all the men in the higher paid group and the women in the other.

Konno said the women were demanding the difference between their pay and the minimum pay for men. If they were men, the women would have been promoted and the four women who retired would have received more retirement pay, the lawsuit said.

In his ruling, presiding judge Yukio Yamaguchi found that Nomura discriminated against women but said it was unclear how they would have been promoted, court official Toru Ueno said.

When compared to Western and even some other Asian nations, Japan is notorious for discouraging ambition among female employees, sometimes relegating them to serving tea for male colleagues.

Many Japanese women quit upon marriage and return to the work force in menial part-time jobs, receiving a fraction of the pay men get for the same work.

Nomura Securities now employs 2,800 women under the lower pay track. Konno said the ruling was significant in finding such discrimination illegal.

``That is meaningful,″ she said. ``The ruling cannot be called a total victory or a total defeat.″

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