The Osaka District Court has ruled that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s order to check whether municipal office workers had tattoos was illegal and constituted an invasion of privacy.
The court handed down the ruling on Wednesday in a damages suit filed by a 56-year-old city bus driver, Tadasu Yasuda, who was transferred to a desk job after he refused to answer questions on whether or not he had a tattoo, Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. Presiding Judge Kenji Nakagaito invalidated the transfer and ordered the Osaka municipal government to pay Yasuda 1.1 million yen in damages.
The judge said ordering employees to reveal if they have tattoos or not encroached on individuals' privacy and carried a risk of creating workplace discrimination. The court also ruled that the plaintiff should be reinstated to his previous position as a bus driver.
The tattoo check, which was requested by Hashimoto in May 2012, involved 35,000 city employees who were asked to reply in writing. Of those who answered, 114 said they did have tattoos on their arms or legs, while six refused to disclose whether they had any tattoos or not, Sankei reported. Those six, including Yasuda, were subjected to disciplinary action. Yasuda said later that he did not have a tattoo, but refused to cooperate with the investigation because he felt it was an invasion of his privacy.
When he launched his anti-tattoo campaign, Hashimoto said at the time that “citizens feel uneasy or intimidated if they see tattoos (on workers) in services and it undermines trust in the city.”
Although small tattoos are now a common means of self-expression in Japan and are no longer indicative of gang membership, Hashimoto threatened to dismiss any city worker who has tattoos. "We need to have possession of this information. Anyone who doesn't respond to the survey should be reported to HR and passed over for future promotion. This all goes without saying," Hashimoto said.
Japanese media reported that Hashimoto first brought up the issue after learning that a worker at a children's home threatened kids by showing them his tattoos.© Japan Today