Fujifilm COO sues for ageism

David Marshall, aged 59, chief operating officer for Fujifilm in Australia, is suing company CEO Takeshi Yanese and chairman Nobuhiko Koshimizu for up to $1m in compensation, claiming ageism.

Marshall’s statement of claim as reported in the Australian Financial Review asserts that Fujifilm sought to exclude him from high-level client and executive meetings and decisions, moved him to smaller offices, and disconnected him from his email, and that the chairman, and Fujifilm executives repeatedly made discriminatory comments about his age.

The AFR reports that at a dinner at Melbourne's Rococo restaurant in 2015, former Fujifilm CEO Kevin Masuda allegedly stood up and pointed at Mr Marshall, laughingly saying ‘Dave is too old’ in front of senior clients. It has also reported that in 2017, Mr Koshimizu repeatedly referred to himself in front of Mr Marshall as ‘old, like past 60, retirement age’ and allegedly told him Fujifilm ‘wants you to find the next Mr Marshall’ and it was looking for a ‘young, strong’ team.

The COO, who departs early October, is seeking compensation for loss of income and benefits. He is an 18-year Fujifilm veteran.

The AFR reports Marshall’s 2013 contract amounted to $430,000 in salary a year, 14 per cent superannuation, a 10 per cent bonus, company vehicle, golf membership, private health insurance, plus payment of his home phone, internet and road tolls.

He is seeking $100,000 in damages for distress and suffering as well as any civil penalties that the court imposes on the company, its CEO and chairman.

In addition, the AFR says Marshall is claiming $296,809 in severance benefits he says he was entitled to under his contract but that Fujifilm refused to pay, arguing the benefits kicked in after Fujifilm made changes to his position in July by getting him to perform ‘limited duties away from the office’.

In May, the company requested he move to ‘smaller offices’ away from key personnel and downgraded his travel level from business class to economy, according to Marshall.

Marshall says by July the company had disconnected his email account without informing him and he was not included in major events.

Marshall also alleges that the CEO and chairman made changes so that the company's legal counsel did not notify him that the chairman was working in Australia without a valid working visa.

Current retirement age in Japan is 62, by 2025 it will be 65. In Australia retirement age is not specified but aged pension cannot be accessed before 65.

Research from the University of South Australia and The Human Rights Commission indicates that 27 per cent of Australians aged over 50 have had recent experience of age-based discrimination in the workplace. The researchers say the most common responses pointed to limited employment, promotion or training opportunities and perceptions that older people have outdated skills or are too slow to learn new things.

Justine Irving, researcher, older workers, retirement and ageism, University of South Australia says, “Over two thirds of retirees in our study, who had experienced age related discrimination, attributed their retirement to involuntary factors such as ‘having no choice’, redundancy or dismissal. Negative experiences at work (with a colleague, management or client) or dissatisfaction with organisational changes were often the trigger events for retirement.”

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