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Report: Female Employee Sues Konami For Discrimination
Report: Female Employee Sues Konami For Discrimination
June 18, 2009 | By Kris Graft

June 18, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

A female Konami employee sued the Metal Gear publisher for discrimination, after an alleged demotion and pay cut following maternity leave, according to a new report on web log Kotaku (original Japanese piece available on MSN).

Yoko Sekiguchi, 36, claims that she went on maternity leave in October last year, and returned the following April. But upon return, Konami allegedly demoted her and docked her pay by 200,000 ($2,000) per month, citing the "burden" of child rearing.

"This is discrimination aimed at female employees who chose to take maternity leave," she said. "...I decided to take legal action because fellow female employees are experiencing the same type of treatment."

According to the report, Sekiguchi is suing for 33 million ($344,000) in damages.

Sekiguchi negotiated licensing deals for Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer soccer franchise.

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Cindy Dalfovo
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I hope she wins the case. The gaming industry is already pretty sexist, but that's just ridiculous. If she works the same amount of hourse, there's no sense in reducing her pay.

Things could go differently if the company decided to talk to her and maybe agree on fewer work hours and a proportional reduction in her pay, so she could spend more time with the baby - that is, if she wanted that.

I mean, why people make so non sense decision? I hope she wins the case and that this remains as an example to other companies of what shouldn't be done

Jen Bauer
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Good luck, Sekiguchi.

Dave Endresak
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Let's keep in mind that Konami has not offered their own statement about the allegations. Let's also keep in mind that there are plenty of women, especially in Japan, who work in the game industry and that they tend to dominate the creative side (but not the business and technical sides) as well as the consumer side. As Roberta Willams stated in an interview a couple years ago, she never, ever experienced any type of discrimination in her twenty years in the industry despite the popular (mis)perception that the industry is sexist. In this case, I would say it's the demotion that caused the pay cut, not an arbitrary claim that she's worth less even though she's doing the same job. I think that the issue will be whether or not the demotion is upheld, not whether or not she works the same amount of hours as someone else. This is assuming that the story has been reported accurately, of course.

To be more accurate about the industry, there are certain individuals, perhaps even certain companies, that are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. It's also true that the industry has companies from all over the world and that cultural differences are often ignored by people in one part of the world versus another (i.e. certain behaviors may be seen as discriminatory in one area when viewed from the outside because other factors exist that are not evident, and people always view things through their own ethnocentric lens). This is true for all areas of life, though, and isn't exclusive to gaming. We can just as easily claim sexism in the nursing profession, for example, or in other professions such as teaching.

Of course, if the allegations are determined to be true, I think that it would be a rather odd mistake for Konami to make. The company has a very strong female customer base, after all, due to popular dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial (including the bishounen versions targeted at female gamers). Not that any company is immune to making really idiotic mistakes, of course; it happens all the time.

It will be interesting to see how the case develops.

Don Langosta
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It sounds bad but we still don't know the entire case. Yes, it is illegal to demote or fire a woman for having a baby. However, having a baby does not protect a woman from a demotion or firing due to legitimate reasons (or no reason at all, which is the business's right).

A woman working the same hours and doing the same job should receive the same pay of course but the fact of the matter is a private company has the right to manage its staff so long as it doesn't violate any laws in doing so.

An Dang
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Well, it's Konami's fault for citing the "burden" of child rearing as their reason. That's basically a set up for themselves. Reading the title of the article I initially assumed it was simply the result of the recession and another one of many pay cuts.

Without knowing all of the facts, it's hard to say what's going on. And though Japan has a reputation for being a bit backward in terms of gender equality, I don't think the men there would go this far. As it is suggested above, I am fairly sure Konami told her she would work less hours. However, even if that's the case and the sole reason, it should not have been their decision. The should have merely given her the choice.

Jan Gonzalez
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She went on maternity leave for six months?

Meredith Katz
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Six months is perfectly legitimate in many places in the world. In fact, a year isn't unheard of in places (like Canada).

Frank Smith
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If her job performance has declined do to her new responsibilities, than maybe a demotion is in order. And you can give that position to someone who is more productive. She has retained employment at that company so it sounds like that there is more to the story. It's natural that sympathy go to the individual that cries discrimination, rather than the company. So perhaps she felt, even if her demotion was justified, that going on the offensive betters her chances towards legal action. Again all we have is her 'story', no physical proof has been provided, and this company is now looks like blood sucking Nazis. She negotiated deals for the company, perhaps she couldn't travel. There's numerous reason she could have been demoted for actual being less productive that are all due to her new position in life. That said maybe cultural differences lead us to lean one way or the other, while its acceptable in Asia. As bad as it sounds there isn't enough info to make an informed judgment one way or another, so I'll maintain my current opinion of Konami.

J. Pomegranate
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Is there an equivalent type or amount of leave for people, men and women, who choose not to have kids? If not, why? What would the term be for this type of inequity? If a woman gets paid less for the same work as a man it's sexist; if people are turned down for work due to the color of their skin it's racist; what would this be called? I don't want to have kids, but 6 months off to take care of other things in my life would be AWESOME!

Amir Sharar
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It's an interesting contrast to what Koei Tecmo recently announced for its employees. They have increased bonuses for employees who have their first (roughly $1000), second (roughly $2000) and third child (roughly $20,000). This is an obvious reaction to Japan's shrinking population.

There could be many different factors that affect this situation with Konami (as Frank Smith mentioned, with a young child at home she may not be able to travel for long periods, if that was regular activity her previous job it makes sense to move her to another position), but I would garner that it may be in their best interest to be as accommodating as possible (that is, move her to a more suitable position temporarily but keep the pay the same). This way there isn't a negative stigma with having children. Vital in a country with a decreasing population that isn't counter-balanced with immigration.

J. Pomegranate: "Is there an equivalent type or amount of leave for people, men and women, who choose not to have kids? If not, why? What would the term be for this type of inequity?"

There is no inequity. You have a situation where one chooses to have kids, and another where one doesn't. Being different situations, the results should be different as well. It's pretty simple.

James LeGeros
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@ J. Pomegranate

Maternity leave involves bringing a new life into the world. People bringing children into the world are helping to ensure that there will be another generation of people to continue society. People may not find the time to have children if they did not have a guarantee that their job would be there when they get back. The penalty for a generation so overworked that they do not have children is extinction.

Your "6 months off to take care of other things" has no great impact on society. As such, governments have not opted to pass laws to protect an individuals job when they need to take some time off so they can "take care of other things."

However, you are free to ask your boss if you can take six months off to straighten out your garage, find happiness, or to finally beat Ninja Gaiden 2... If your boss is feeling generous, he/she will grant you your time off. Just be aware that there are no laws guaranteeing that your job will be there when you get back.