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Back pay awarded to ex-worker at Japan sweets firm over padded job ad salary

The head office of Cow Cow Food System, which operates Madame Shinco sweets shops, is seen in the city of Osaka on Nov. 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Kumiko Yasumoto)

OSAKA -- The Osaka District Court ordered the operator of a popular sweets shop based in west Japan to pay some 900,000 yen, or around $6,500, to a former employee who sought back pay on the grounds that his monthly salary was over 100,000 yen less than the amount stated on a job search site, the Mainichi Shimbun learned from the man who filed for labor tribunal proceedings.

    The 46-year-old man worked at a factory in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, that manufactures sweets for Madame Shinco, known for its Baumkuchen cakes sold mainly in stores and at major stations in the west Japan area. After quitting the company this spring, he filed for labor tribunal proceedings in August, seeking back pay of around 2 million yen, or about $14,000, from the operator Cow Cow Food System. On Nov. 25, the Osaka court ordered the company to pay some 900,000 yen to the man.

    According to the written petition, the man applied for a position in sweets manufacturing for Madame Shinco after viewing its page on the job search site Indeed in March 2021. Information such as "monthly salary between 350,000 and 500,000 yen (about $2,500 to $3,620) (including overtime pay)" and "two days off per week" were listed on the website, and the man received a similar explanation during an interview with a human resources representative of the company.

    The former employee who filed for labor tribunal proceedings against Cow Cow Food System speaks with the Mainichi Shimbun after the Osaka District Court's decision to award him back pay. (Mainichi/Kumiko Yasumoto)

    Madame Shinco presented the man with his employment contract one month after he started working there. The contract included the description "base salary of 160,000 to 250,000 yen (approx. $1,160 to $1,810)." It had no clear descriptions of overtime pay, and the man was apparently able to confirm in verbal exchanges with the head of the factory that his monthly salary was 350,000 yen, so he signed the contract.

    However, the man said that his monthly salary, which was 250,000 yen during his three-month probation, fell to around 170,000 yen (about $1,230), after the trial period was over. He received no explanation on the reason for the reduction, and decided to quit.

    Under the Employment Security Act, in cases where companies change working conditions, they are required to explicitly indicate the content of those changes to employees. The man claims, "There was no explanation from the company, and I signed the employment contract based on the descriptions on the job search site."

    Meanwhile, Madame Shinco acknowledged in its written response to the labor tribunal that the descriptions in the job search site advertisement differed from the actual reality, but argued, "The advertisement on Indeed is meant to increase site visitors, and we simply stated a high pay." The company's argument was that the job description on Indeed "does not fall under working conditions of an employment contract."

    The man commented, "There must be people who have no choice but to give in and accept a salary that differs from the one shown on job search sites. I'd like the company to use this judicial decision as an opportunity to reform its views."

    According to a lawyer representing the company, the labor tribunal decision also mentioned that it was mutually confirmed that the monthly pay under the employment contract was 250,000 yen. The company commented, "We'd like to think about measures moving forward while carefully examining the content of the tribunal decision."

    It has also emerged that in April, the company received a correction advisory from the Yodogawa Labor Standards Inspection Office over a violation of the Labor Standards Act on the grounds that it did not explicitly indicate its working conditions when it hired the man.

    (Japanese original by Kosuke Yamamoto and Kumiko Yasumoto, Osaka City News Department)

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