Top managers ordered to pay for employee’s death from overwork

The operator of major restaurant chain Nihonkai Shoya and its four top managers were ordered Tuesday to pay about 78.6 million yen in damages to the parents of an employee who the court recognized as having died of overwork in 2007.

The decision by the Kyoto District Court was the first to find the top management of a major business corporation liable to pay damages in a suit involving the death from overwork of an employee, said lawyer Tadashi Matsumaru, the plaintiffs’ legal agent and a member of a group of lawyers involved in such suits.

The parents of Motoyasu Fukiage, who died at age 24 while employed at Nihonkai Shoya’s outlet in Shiga Prefecture near Kyoto, had filed a 100 million yen damages suit against Daisyo Corp. — a Tokyo-based listed firm — and its President Tatsu Taira and other managers.

Presiding Judge Shinichi Oshima said Daisyo had failed to properly take account of its employees’ working hours, noting that it set salaries under the premise that employees would work 80 hours of overtime a month, equivalent to the government criteria to designate death from overwork.

The three-judge panel also found that Fukiage died of heart disease caused by his duties, noting that he continued standing for long hours every day and suffered from huge physical strain.

Fukiage worked at a Nihonkai Shoya outlet in Shiga Prefecture after joining the company in April 2007. He died in August that year from acute heart failure while sleeping at home, after working on average 112 hours of overtime per month for a four-month period, the court found.

His death was recognized as related to work in December 2008 by the Otsu labor standards inspection office.

Founded in 1971, Daisyo operates some 980 outlets across Japan of such restaurant chains as Shoya, Nihonkai Shoya and Yaruki Chaya. Its stock is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section.

After hearing the decision, Fukiage’s father Satoru, 61, told a press conference he does not want money but wants his son back.

Daisyo said it would offer condolences again over Fukiage’s death and would look into the court decision fully before deciding whether to file an appeal to a higher court.