After being demoted upon her return to work from maternity leave, former Konami staffer Yoko Sekiguchi has been awarded $12,000 in damages.
After taking maternity leave from her position at Konami in late 2008, former employee Yoko Sekiguchi returned to work in the spring of 2009 to find that her employers had demoted her and cut around $2,000 from her monthly salary. When asked why this had happened, Sekiguchi's bosses apparently said it had something to do with her new childbearing "burden."
Japanese law guarantees women 14 weeks maternity leave at 60% of their salary, or a whole year unpaid. It would appear that Sekiguchi took around six months maternity leave.
Sekiguchi made the decision to sue Konami for $422,000 (which stood at $343,000 when the case first began) in damages over her demotion soon after it was levied in 2009, remarking at the time that, "This is discrimination aimed at female employees who chose to take maternity leave. I decided to take legal action because fellow female employees are experiencing the same type of treatment."
Now, almost three years after Sekiguchi filed the case, the Tokyo High Court has awarded her $12,000 in damages. While that number pales next to the amount Sekiguchi originally asked for, it's still a victory of sorts.
Konami said it wouldn't comment until its representatives had read the court's ruling in full. Sekiguchi, however, said that, "I want the company to be a place where people don't have to choose between two alternatives: career or kids."
Her last comment will strike a chord with many working women across the professional world, including those in the games industry. Prior to her demotion, Sekiguchi negotiated licensing deals for Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer franchise; whether or not having a family presents such a "burden" to a worker that they can't continue in a position like that is not something that their boss has the right to decide before they even return to work.
If Konami has an official response to this case, it'll make for interesting reading (unless it's just "yeah the judgement's pretty sound good luck Yoko bye" or something). We'll keep an eye out for that, and anything which could clarify why Sekiguchi's payout was so much smaller than her claim, over the coming weeks.