In an extraordinary move for a senior Australian company executive, departing Fujifilm photo imaging Chief Operating Officer, Dave Marshall, is bringing legal action against his colleagues CEO Takeshi Yanese and chairman Nobuhiko Koshimizu, accusing them of age discrimination under the Fair Work Act.
In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court on September 18 by employment lawyer Judith Healy, Mr Marshall, 59, (pictured right) is suing the two for up to $1 million, alleging they sacked him for being ‘too old’. (This at least confirms Dave Marshall was indeed sacked, a fact the company has refused to officially confirm.)
While he was apparently dismissed in July, he doesn’t officially leave Fujifilm until early October. According to a report in the Australian Financial Review (the source of which is not referenced), he is seeking compensation for loss of income and benefits. He also wants $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.
The AFR quotes his 2013 contract when he was bringing in $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 also wants $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, he is claiming $296,809 in severance benefits he claims Fujifilm refused to pay.
According to his statement of claim, from May 2017, Fujifilm began to exclude him from high-level client and executive meetings and decisions, moved him to smaller offices and disconnected his email.
He claims the chairman and former CEO Kevin Masuda, who has since died, repeatedly made discriminatory comments about his age.
At a dinner at Melbourne’s Rococo restaurant in 2015, he claims Mr Masuda stood up and pointed at Mr Marshall, laughingly saying, ‘Dave is too old’ in front of clients.
This year, Mr Marshall claims, current chairman Nobuhiko Koshimizu repeatedly referred to himself – that is, Mr Koshimizu – in front of Mr Marshall as ‘old, like past 60, retirement age’. He allegedly told him Fujifilm ‘wants you to find the next Mr Marshall’ and it was looking for a ‘young, strong’ team.
On May 18, during a dinner at Palace Hotel in Tokyo, the chairman allegedly said to Mr Marshall, ‘Dave, you and I are old too. We need a younger person to make [photo imaging] strong as a general manager.’
Mr Marshall claims this was said in front of the CEO Mr Yanese and thus resulted in his dismissal, and was unlawful adverse action.
He also complains the CEO excluded him from pricing negotiations, tenders, staffing issues and meetings with the CEOs of Harvey Norman and Fujifilm New Zealand.
The antipodean operations of Fujifilm have had an unhappy 2017 to date, with subsidiary Fuji Xerox wracked by a major accounting fraud scandal in New Zealand and Australia amounting to several hundred millions of dollars related in part to unrealistic ‘click fees’ for office copiers.
Just last week – at the same time Mr Marshall was filing his unlawful adverse action claim – Fuji Xerox in New Zealand launched civil legal action against unnamed former senior executives.
COMMENT: The ‘divorce’ between Dave Marshall and his employer of 18 years seems set to be a protracted and ugly one. Given the adversarial nature of legal action, it’s unlikely either side will emerge with untarnished reputations.