(Sent to Fukuzawa, ISSHO, Friends, and JALTCall Fri, 7 Feb 1997)

On the front page of the Japan Times (Jan 29, 1997) was an article about a landmark decision in the Japanese legal system. The Supreme Court ruled that even non-Japanese *without visas* are entitled to rights. In this case, compensation and severance pay for a debilitating injury incurred on the job.

By extension, this bodes well for those of us here LEGALLY--laborers (and recently public servants in certain areas--click here for more details) can now be arguably protected under Japanese laws.

The article (original jpegged here) follows:



In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a foreigner working illegally in Japan is due three years' income lost because of an on-the-job accident.

The top court awarded Boby Maqsood, 31, \2.2 million yen in damages--about three year's worth of income based on past revenue--saying that undocumented foreigners in general could not work longer than three years in Japan.

The ruling supported a previous decision by the Tokyo High Court.

The top court ordered the publishing company that employed the Pakistani man to pay the damages.

It was the first ruling by the Supreme Court concerning income losses claimed by foreigners in the country illegally.

The court said the losses should be estimated based on his income in Japan for three years and the rest should be calculated based on his expected income in Pakistan.

Maaqsood came to Japan on a sight-seeing visa in 1988 and lost a finger on his right hand in 1990 while working at the company's print shop.

He claimed that the company neglected its responsibility to ensure employee's safety and demanded compensation equal to what would be granted a Japanese worker in a similar case.

Presiding Judge Tsuneo Kabe said in the ruling that there is no reason for estimated losses to be any different for Japanese and foreign workers. They should be calculated based on foreign workers' future income, under consideration of such facts as how long they could have continued working in Japan if no such accident occurred.

"The estimated period of future work in Japan should take into consideration the foreigners' purpose for coming to the country," he said.

The Tokyo District Court ruling had recognized faults on the part of the employer, saying that Maqsood's work ability has been cut by 20 percent because of the accident.

The court had said the estimated losses should be based on his monthly income of about \170,000 yen, which should be multiplied by 36 months, the period he could have continued working in Japan.

In addition, the court added a sum proportionate to about 39 years of salary he could have earned in Pakistan, where he could work until 67. It calculated his prospective income in Pakistan at \30,000 a month.

The total amount of compensation came to about \2 million yen.

The Tokyo High Court supported the lower court ruling, but Maqsood appealed, claiming that estimated losses be estimated totally on the basis of his income in Japan.


This is significant, and not only because of its generosity; the Maiden of Justice is here appropriately donning a blindfold. After years of people like us kvetching about how the Japanese courts protect the status quo by always siding with the powers that be, we are finally seeing a ruling done in favor of the underdog, and here regardless of the victim's national status. A gaijin, moreover an illegal one, was judged as a person with a livelihood, instead of as an illegal migrant.

This bodes well for those non-Japanese teachers being denied tenure by government fiat simply because of their nationality. Put this verdict into your mental roll-a-dex, fellow gaijin, and be ready to fight back if your Japanese employer threatens something fishy. That's what the courts are here for, and even their judges are waking up to that. Moreover, with visa in hand, the law should be that much more on your side, and the severance-pay period longer.

Provided that you are patient enough to go through the long-and-winding judical process here, precedents are being established which can make us more equal before the eyes of Japanese law. Well and good.

Dave Aldwinckle


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