Japan court rejects identifying overwork death firms

TOKYO - Japan's supreme court has turned down an appeal by a civic group demanding the government disclose the names of companies whose employees have died of overwork, according to a report.

The group wanted the Osaka Labour Bureau to name the companies within its jurisdiction that paid compensation over employee deaths stemming from strokes, heart attacks and other causes determined to be related to work, Kyodo news said.

But the court rejected the demand Tuesday, backing a decision by the Osaka high court which found identifying the companies could harm their reputation, Kyodo News reported late Friday.

The civic group made their request to the bureau in 2009 and wanted it to cover work-related deaths for the previous seven years.

After the bureau decided against disclosure a month later, the group took the issue to court.

The Osaka District Court ordered disclosure, saying that doing so "would not lead to the identification of employees and would not immediately discredit the companies".

But the Osaka High Court overturned that decision, saying that certifying brain and heart diseases for worker compensation "does not necessarily mean the companies were negligent or violated laws but could undermine their reputation in society," the report said.

Japan's labour ministry investigates whether deaths are caused by excessive work if the victim had performed monthly overtime of 80 hours or more for the preceding six months, or 100 hours for the previous one month.

The number of deaths in Japan that are classified as "karoshi" or death by overwork has been hovering at around 200 annually in recent years, according to ministry data.

The cause of the deaths are usually strokes, heart attacks or suicides caused by mental disorders.