Various Resolution Systems regarding Individual Labor-Related Disputes.

Q. I am from Singapore, had worked in a financial company in Japan until a week ago. Frankly, I was sacked for unacceptable reasons. Since starting to work for this company, my supervisor asked me to work overtime almost every day. But they had never paid me overtime premium pay despite my repetitive request of overtime payment in accordance with Japanese labor standard law which impose an employer to pay at least 25% overtime premium. Nevertheless, they fired me, pointing out my insubordination. I cannot accept their mistreatment, but I do not think they would pay outstanding overtime payment and not admit their one-sided termination was legally wrong even if I try to negotiate with them on my own. Is there any effective resolution system available to an individual worker in Japan like me?

A. There are various labor disputes resolution system in Japan, ranging from court proceeding such as Civil litigation, Small Claims Actions, Civil Conciliation Procedure, and Labor Tribunal Proceeding to Arbitration conducted by the Dispute Coordinating Committee in the Prefectural Labor Bureau which is administrative agency. In this blog, I want to unpack each of systems, focusing on court procedure (as for administrative procedure, I’ll post another blog all later). Each system has different features so that you will choose which system should be fit for your case, considering nature of the case, your desired goal and claim, cost effectiveness and so on.

1, Civil Conciliation Procedure 民亊調停(みんじちょうてい)

Civil Conciliation procedure is a solution system, held at summary court, based on mutual agreement between parties concerned which is facilitated by a conciliation committee consisting one professional judge and two civil mediators. Purpose of this system is to give an opportunity to both parties to have constructive discussion leading to amicable resolution based on mutual agreement, so you are not required to prove and justify your claim by detailed legal statement and evidence. Most of appointed civil mediators in this process are professional lawyers such as attorney at law or Labor and Social Security Attorney and other professional expert who are familiar with labor dispute solution. So, you do not need to hire your representative lawyer. As this resolution is based on mutual agreement, the committee may discontinue the procedure without possibility to settle the case. Meantime, the committee may make a settlement proposal.

2, Small Claims Actions (少額請求訴訟 しょうがくせいきゅうそしょう)

Small Claims Actions is special legal proceeding in which the judge will render the judgement base on just only one-time hearing. You are eligible to use this system only in a case that the value of your claim is less than 600,000JPY. In some of case in this proceeding, judicial commissioner selected from among the general public will be involved in the solution process by way of facilitating the case between the parties and providing settlement propose and so on. This system is fit for relatively simple case so that you can proceed this case on your own without professional representative lawyer, but you must prepare necessary documents and evidence backing up your claim. In this proceeding, court judgement may order not only lump-sum payment but payment in installment and payment grace. If an opposite party disagrees to make use of Small Claims Actions as dispute-resolution method, the case shall be transferred to civil litigation procedure.

3, Civil litigation proceeding. (民事訴訟 みんじ そしょう)

Civil litigation proceeding is resolution system where professional judge(s) solve the civil legal dispute by render one-sided judgement based on fact-finding and legal interpretation considering claims and evidence submitted by both parties concerned. Once filing sue, every case has possibility to be solved by ending up with mutual agreement through discussion facilitated by a judge in the middle of process. However, this proceeding shall aim at verifying legal rights and duties based on legal and factual claim and evidence substantiating each of claim and fact-finding, so that you are advised to retain an attorney at law representing you at the court.

4, Labor Tribunal Proceeding. (労働審判手続 ろうどうしんぱんてつづき)

Labor tribunal Proceeding is a solution system for civil dispute arising from individual labor relations which is held at labor tribunal committee at District court, composed of one labor tribunal judge and two labor tribunal members, the one from labor unions and the other from business associations. Tribunal sessions will be held in principle, within 3 times and during this three-time session.

This proceeding has unique feature that is in between system of one-side judgement and flexible mediation system. So the committee makes an effort to facilitates both parties to reach an ultimate and amicable solution by mutual settlement agreement. Meantime, as primary purpose of this proceeding is to clarify the right and duties between both parties based on claims and evidence submitted by each parties concerned, you should prepare necessary documents justifying your claim sufficiently in advance. To do so, you should retain a professional lawyer as your representative at court.

If both parties fail to reach a settlement agreement in spite of settlement proposal provided by the labor tribunal committee, the committee will render one-side adjudication. If either or both of parties concerned are not satisfied with the adjudication, they can make an objection within 2 weeks from the date of receiving oral or written notification of the adjudication issued by the court and then the case will be transferred to litigation proceeding automatically in which normally it takes a year and more to finalize the case.

That’s it. I would be grateful if this blog could be helpful for you. Hasta luego! (^^)/

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