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First Court Award for Women Over Discrimination in Promotions

July 5, 1990

TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese court has ruled for the first time that female workers were denied promotions due to sex discrimination, awarding 18 women a total of $640,000 in lost wages.

The lawsuit, which took 10 years to wend its way through the court system, was filed by women who worked for a semi-governmental medical insurance fund.

″This is an epoch-making ruling that will lead to making other corporations review their labor practices,″ said Eiko Shinotsuka, a labor economist at Tokyo’s Ochanomizu Women’s University.

″There are many other Japanese companies discriminating against females,″ she said after Wednesday’s ruling.

In addition to the $733,000 requested in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked that the women be given promotions allegedly denied on the basis of sex. The court refused, saying that it could not direct such personnel decisions.

The women employees of the Social Insurance Medical Fee Payment Fund charged that fund agreements in 1978 to provide raises and promotions for only male employees violated Japanese law.

Women comprised about half of the fund’s total 6,300 workers.

The Tokyo District Court said promoting the male employees while excluding their female colleagues constituted sex discrimination.

It awarded $640,000 in lost wages that the women would have received if promoted, court officials said today.

″It was a long fight,″ said Yoko Tsuji, one of the 18 plaintiffs. ″I’m very happy if this ruling will help other women victimized by discrimination,″ she told the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

Japan’s Constitution forbids discrimination based on sex, and its labor laws require equal treatment where salaries are concerned.

In another development, female members of Parliament on Wednesday protested the appointment of a man as the new head of the Women’s Bureau, a division of the Labor Ministry. Hyakutaro Takahashi will be the first man to occupy the post since the bureau was established in 1945.

Although women’s voices are increasingly being heard in government, Japan’s women’s movement is small. The nation’s first sexual harassment case was filed only last year, but since then the number of such complaints has ballooned.

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