Shioda v. Kochi Broadcasting, 268 Rodo Hanrei 17 (Sup. Ct. of Japan, 31 January 1977)

This is the case those who discuss Japanese labor law refer to when they talk about Japan’s “lifetime employment system”.    I noticed (h/t to Tozen Union) that it was again the topic of a piece in the Japan Times today, I am surprised that the case isn’t more understood by foreigners who come to work in Japan.

As you can read through the link, Mr. Shioda worked for a radio station on the early shift (6 am).   He overslept twice, and was sacked.   Shioda fought the dismissal, and the case made its way up to Japan’s highest court.   In 1977, the Japanese Supreme Court said that dismissals are invalid if they lack a “socially justifiable reason”.    So, basically, there is no “at will” employment in Japan, and additionally, firing or termination can only be for specific causes.

The holding in the Shioda case was codified, in 2008, in the Labor Contract Law, at Article 16:

The right to dismiss has been abused and the dismissal is invalid when it lacks objective, rational grounds and cannot be deemed reasonable according to social norms.

As I’ve been saying for quite a while now, it seems that when it comes to foreigners working in Japan, this rule goes by the wayside.   

The “objective, rational grounds” seems to be:    you’re a foreigner;

and “reasonable according to social norms” is:    be grateful that you got to work “x” amount in Japan.

You see this reinforced, time and again, in the hiring practices of Japanese companies.   It’s the idea of making special rules for foreigners, which is why I was always against these things like trying to avoid the pension and health insurance systems.   The making of special rules that certain foreigners grab on to, make it more likely that the rule givers will turn around and try to cheat people elsewhere.    But this is old for regular readers, and a bit boring . . .

With the Berlitz Union decision, and some interesting developments with GABA, I wonder whether the Japanese court system isn’t becoming more sensitive to the rights of foreigners in Japan.   When coupled with something like the Moises Garcia child custody victory, it gives some hope that things are finally turning around there.






[Update: This case is invariably cited as Volume 258 or 268 online. I have decided to go with Volume 268.]

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