2022/7/20 Tokyo High Court: Ruling rejecting avoidance of unlimited-term conversion due to abuse of "10-year special exception"

On July 20, 2022, the Tokyo High Court ruled in favor of the Tokyo District Court's December 16, 2021 ruling that approved the "unlimited-term conversion based on more than five years of service" of a part-time lecturer at Senshu University.

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Overview of the Case

This court case is outlined below.

  1. A part-time lecturer teaching German at Shushi University applied for conversion to an unlimited-term contract under Article 18 of the Labor Contract Act because her continuous service exceeded five years.
  2. The university refused to accept the application, stating that since the part-time lecturer had a career as a researcher, she was subject to the "10-year exception" based on the "Act on the Enhancement of R&D Capability and Efficient Promotion of R&D through Promotion of Reform of R&D System" (later renamed to the "Act on the Stimulation of Science, Technology and Innovation Creation"). The acceptance of the application was refused on the grounds that "the lecturer is subject to the '10-year special exception' and cannot be converted to an unlimited-term contract until she has worked for the university for longer than 10 years.
  3. The part-time lecturer filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court demanding confirmation of her status, claiming that the university's response was "an infringement of her right to conversion to the unlimited-term contract.

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Court Decision

On December 16, 2021, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that "a person who does not conduct research as part of his/her duties cannot be considered a 'researcher'" and approved the "unlimited-term conversion based on service in excess of five years" (see below for the Tokyo District Court ruling).

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Senshu University was dissatisfied with this decision and immediately appealed to the Tokyo High Court.

On July 20, 2022, the Tokyo High Court upheld the decision of the Tokyo District Court.

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Impact of the Ruling

It seems significant that the court has repeatedly made the clear judgment that "a person who does not conduct research as part of his/her duties cannot be regarded as a 'researcher'.

This will be a major blow to universities that are using the "10-year exception" based on the "Act on  the Enhancement of R&D Capability and Efficient Promotion of R&D by Promoting Reform of the R&D System, etc." to avoid the unlimited-term conversion based on Article 18 of the Labor Contract Act.

The significance of this ruling does not stop there. The Tokyo District Court's ruling also mentioned the "10-year exception" based on the "Act on the Term of Office of University Teachers, etc." (Ninki-ho), and stated that the target group and procedures for its application must be strictly defined.

Therefore, this ruling is a major blow to universities around the country that are abusing the "10-year exception" to avoid the unlimited-term conversion. For those of us who have been opposing this and promoting the conversion, we are now in an advantageous situation.

The extent to which we can take advantage of this favorable situation depends solely on our own efforts.

 


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