Nova, fired president face charges over unpaid wages

Failed English conversation school chain Nova Corp. and its sacked president Nozomu Sahashi are poised to face charges for not paying wages to about 400 employees, according to the Osaka Labor Bureau.

Bureau officials are set to send documents to prosecutors accusing the company and its former president of failing to pay about 105 million yen to around 400 staff, mainly foreign language instructors and Japanese support staff.

Excluding cases involving unpaid overtime or severance pay, the amount the bureau accuses Nova of failing to pay is unsurpassed in an instance where criminal responsibility has been pursued.

Sahashi, 56, denies deliberately intending to withhold wages, but labor bureau officials strongly believe he continued to force the conversation school chain to operate when there was no realistic chance of being able to pay employees. Including sums due for assistance after Nova collapsed in October last year, it is estimated that Nova owed employees 4.1 billion yen, and the figure would be greater if severance pay were included.

The Japan Labor Health and Welfare Organization is a government-run body that pays workers up to 80 percent of their wages (up to a limit of 2.96 million yen a month) if their employer goes bankrupt and fails to pay them what they are owed. The organization said that as of the end of May, there have been requests for payouts from 6,921 former Nova employees to the sum of 2.91 billion yen. Payouts of 2.85 billion yen have been made to 6,751 former Nova workers.