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Question Concerning My Contract (ナ胆窶禿ア)

Habbit

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So basically, I'm coming up on the end of my contract term, and I was reviewing the Japanese contents (as I'm now able to understand them better,) and I realized how vague the entire contract itself is... essentially, my company pays for two round-trip flights between Hiroshima and "my home in the United States." Because this contract is one year only, most people end up fulfilling these terms by their initial flight to Japan, their round-trip flight from Japan to America and back here for Christmas vacation, and then their final flight back to America from Japan.

I, however, signed a second contract for the 2013-2014 season, which makes my situation a bit different. The company flew me to Japan initially in 2012, then back to the States for Christmas vacation in December 2012, back to Japan in January 2013 to continue working, and then for another round-trip between Japan and America in December 2013 and January of this year. I see now that I "missed out" on one of my flights in my first contract; I flew one-way three times, and did not use the fourth. But, as I stated earlier, I am nearing the end of my contract and will not be returning with this company for the next year, however, according to my very vague contract, I am still owed a round-trip flight "during the term of this Contract" (”契約期間中”)My contract is officially over on May 17th, and the company wants to fly me out of the country on May 23rd (my visa expires on the 24th) and they want me to reserve my flight sometime this upcoming week.

However, I will be transitioning into another position with another company here in Japan, but I still plan to again return home for the Christmas season, and then fly back to Japan in January. Upon discovering this particular detail in the "Travel Expenses" ("旅費") part of my contract, my plan now is to have the company I work for currently pay for my final round-trip flight NOW for December and January, as I can technically argue that I am doing so "during the term of this Contract." No specific days, nor is any time frame given in the contract, just the very vague wording that they will pay my travel expenses between my "home in the United States and Hiroshima, equal to two-round trips" (the first which was used December 2013 - January 2014.)

Essentially, my question is, if (when) the company flat out refuses to comply with my request, and if I'm not able to convince them that our contract states they must provide this service to me, is there any sort of legal action I can take against them? Thanks for any assistance!
 

Glenski

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If you're not working for them, and you didn't take advantage of the flight benefit while you were, don't expect any company to be nice enough to give it to you. They've been overly nice so far, so who knows, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
 

Majestic

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Yes of course there is legal action you can take. If your company is in breach of the contract, you can sue them on those grounds.

My two cents: If the contract is as vague as you say it is, the obligation for the company to pay for your round-ticket to/from the States even 7 or 8 months after you have left the company may not be as airtight as you think it is. There may be some assumption of "reasonableness" in the time required to provide this trip. The company may wish to provide you with this trip while you are still employed, and while your visa is valid, and the court may deem this as reasonable. Your desire to have the company pay for this trip even after you have quit working for them may be seen as unreasonable. If the trip is seen as home leave (going home then returning to Japan to continue work at that company), it would be a stretch to view the trip as an open-ended holiday courtesy of the company.

Not having access to your contract, it would be hard to say exactly what the company's obligation is. In the end, if you are convinced your interpretation of the company's obligations is correct, you can fight them in court. But your lawyer's fees would probably cost more than a return-trip between Japan and the US.
 

Habbit

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Yes of course there is legal action you can take. If your company is in breach of the contract, you can sue them on those grounds.
My two cents: If the contract is as vague as you say it is, the obligation for the company to pay for your round-ticket to/from the States even 7 or 8 months after you have left the company may not be as airtight as you think it is. There may be some assumption of "reasonableness" in the time required to provide this trip. The company may wish to provide you with this trip while you are still employed, and while your visa is valid, and the court may deem this as reasonable. Your desire to have the company pay for this trip even after you have quit working for them may be seen as unreasonable. If the trip is seen as home leave (going home then returning to Japan to continue work at that company), it would be a stretch to view the trip as an open-ended holiday courtesy of the company.
Not having access to your contract, it would be hard to say exactly what the company's obligation is. In the end, if you are convinced your interpretation of the company's obligations is correct, you can fight them in court. But your lawyer's fees would probably cost more than a return-trip between Japan and the US.

Right, I understand that the company may consider it "unreasonable" to pay for a round trip flight that I will be using when I am not with them anymore, however, the assumption of reasonable time period is not stated within the contract, and is not even vaguely implied, according to my girlfriend. It is not my fault this is not explicitly stated. As I said, technically my period with them expires on the 17th of the upcoming month, however, they are planning my return date to America to be May 23rd, outside the date of my contracted term with them. The difference in the cost of the flight between six days and six months is not significant, and if they are willing to pay for my return home outside the contract term, then six days and six months should make no difference, since they would be paying for it this week anyway.

My original intention was to have them pay for my flight in December, and I would pay for my return flight when the time came, however, after reviewing the contract, I noticed that I was owed two flights, not just one.

May I send you a private message with the details of the 旅費?I do not wish to make them available publicly.
 

Majestic

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I'm not saying that your company may consider it unreasonable. I'm saying that the court may consider it unreasonable. If the time period was stated in the contract it would not be an assumption, it would be an explicit, relevant fact. If the time period is not stated, we have to assume that it means the obligation lasts forever, or that it lasts only while you are employed, or maybe some reasonable amount of time in-between. It is your job to go to court and argue that it extends beyond your period of employment. So, in theory, your argument is that even should you decide to purchase your round-trip ticket 20 years from now, the company still has an obligation to pay that ticket. Which may indeed be the case. It does seem a bit far-fetched, however. My guess is that a Japanese court would probably also find it a bit far-fetched.

The question of "fault" for not stipulating the time period is not at question here.

The thing is, grasshopper, if you are going to threaten your company with legal action, you have to start thinking more like a lawyer, and less like a dude with a girlfriend who is firing him up.

Your company is offering you the ticket now, while you are employed and still exist as a headcount on the company books. The visa expiration date is a relevant fact. To me, it seems reasonable that they would want to fulfill their obligation of booking and paying for your ticket while you are still on their books and are still a legal resident of Japan. It seems unreasonable to me to expect their obligation to you to last until December, when you have ceased to be an employee for them for over six months, and your working visa would have been expired for the same amount of time.

As I said, any breach of contract can be fought in court - but you are looking at several tens of thousands of yen, at minimum. It wouldn't help to send me the contract. I'm not a lawyer. But I think your original question has been answered: you do have legal options if your company is in breach. But I'm suggesting to you that your company may not be in breach...it is a question of interpretation, and it will take you several thousands of dollars to persuade a (reluctant) legal system to see things your way.
 

Habbit

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Majestic
The thing is, grasshopper, if you are going to threaten your company with legal action, you have to start thinking more like a lawyer, and less like a dude with a girlfriend who is firing him up.

Now, now, is name calling because of a simple question, a question that anyone would consider, necessary? I, in actuality, was the one who brought the point to my girlfriend and asked her if I wasn't noticing some vague linguistic implication of, as you said, a reasonable time period, and this was before I explained to her my plan. Nobody is firing me up, I'm simply reading the content and interpreting it within the context of what it actually says - and it does not imply any sort of "reasonable" time frame.

I guess I should have framed my initial question more appropriately... in the United States, the company would owe me another round-trip flight, regardless of whether I flew it now or, as you said, twenty years from now. This is why legal documents are so exhaustive in the States. On the other hand, here, things are taken at face value, based on "trust," and the knowledge that no one (Japanese) is going to fight for something they are owed. However, I am (still) unaware if the "unspoken assumption" holds up in a Japanese court of law, of which I am (still) hoping to discern.

I was also informed that if they reserved my return flight on May 23rd, I could also change the date at my discretion at a later time... just on my tab. If they are ok with that scenario, then, "thinking like a lawyer," booking my first flight out six months, or even twenty years later, instead should not be seen as an issue either, correct? The return portion of the round trip is what I really see as a long shot, though it would be nice to know whether or not I have a legal leg to stand on in terms of it.
 

Majestic

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Mate, believe me, that was not name-calling. That was a bit of brotherly advice. When I am in the mood for name-calling I will probably get banned from this site. At any rate you seem to believe that unspecified time means unlimited time.

This is an assumption that no court would make, neither here nor in the US. I disagree with your belief that a company in the US would owe you another round-trip flight even twenty years after the date of your leaving the company, but I can see this is a chasm between us that will never be filled.

Now, as to your last point; "what if you change the date at your discretion, at your expense" - this is a situation that should satisfy everyone. The company is fulfilling its obligation to purchase your ticket, and you (of your own independent volition) are changing the dates.
 

tomoni

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Hi Habbit,
Whether you are "owed" the ticket or not is practical terms much less important that what you can agree on with your employer. While there are cultural factor that contribute to making Japan a fairly non-litigatious country, there are also practical reasons. It is very difficult, potentially costly, and an extremely slow and time consuming process. (you can get some free legal advice but generally if you try to litigate you will likely have to pay for your lawyer).

So my advice would be to try and work it out with your employer.

BTW, benefits such as sick days and unpaid leave normal "disappear" if you don't use them . (for example if you get 20 paid holidays, and don't take them you maybe able to bank them - usually up to 40, and then have 40 the next year and then if you don't use the next 20, you do not bank 60, but lose 20 and so on. It is not normal for J companies to pay you for untaken holidays, and I would speculate that they might think this a similar thing about an untaken plane trip.)

But good luck with it, please let us know how things work out,

Hope that helps.
 

johnnyG

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...

So my advice would be to try and work it out with your employer.

BTW, benefits such as sick days and unpaid leave normal "disappear" if you don't use them . (for example if you get 20 paid holidays, and don't take them you maybe able to bank them - usually up to 40, and then have 40 the next year and then if you don't use the next 20, you do not bank 60, but lose 20 and so on. It is not normal for J companies to pay you for untaken holidays, and I would speculate that they might think this a similar thing about an untaken plane trip.)

But good luck with it, please let us know how things work out,

Hope that helps.

I think this is the best example of how the situation would be framed. An added example: Teachers at most any uni get supplemental budgets for "research" money, or possible travel (conferences), or a specific class (zemi). If that money is not used by year end, usually mid-March, it disappears, and it is not banked for the following year.

I'd offer that you lost that trip to the states at the end of the year that you did not take advantage of it. While you may be able to point out this missed trip to your employer, and they may be kind enough to include the cost of a ticket as a separation allowance, going to court over this (or even threatening that) seems ridiculous.

My two cents.
 
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