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TEPCO seeks refunds of evacuation payments from employees, rejects ADR settlement via Mainichi Shimbun

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is seeking refunds of compensation payments made to employees who evacuated from their homes as a result of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and has rejected a settlement proposed by a dispute resolution organization in one case, it has been learned from inside sources.

Over 100 million yen in refunds are being sought, and young employees in their 20s have been leaving the company because of TEPCO’s efforts to get the refunds. Critics say the dispute could adversely affect work to repair the Fukushima plant.

The government’s policy on TEPCO’s compensation to evacuees is that the evacuees receive, among other payments, 100,000 yen a month in emotional damages, money to cover transportation and other costs associated with temporary visits to their evacuated homes, and money to cover the costs of household appliances they purchase for their new homes after evacuating.

However, one male TEPCO employee had his compensation payments cut in fall 2012. The reason TEPCO gave was that his move in summer 2011 to a rented residence in an area without restrictions on entering and leaving was considered the end of his time as an evacuee. Since he had lived in a rented residence before the disaster as well, TEPCO considered his moving to another rented residence as a non-evacuation move. Meanwhile, however, non-TEPCO employees who move away from their pre-disaster homes receive compensation.

What surprised the employee was a letter that arrived in spring last year from a TEPCO department handling compensation for the nuclear disaster. It read, “A discrepancy has been confirmed in the amount (of compensation) paid and the correct amount,” and listed the difference at some millions of yen. The discrepancy was for the money the employee had received since moving in summer 2011, and the letter said TEPCO would “withhold” the money. The man called the department to ask about this, and was told the company would subtract the difference from his compensation payments. However, since he wasn’t being paid that compensation anymore, this essentially meant he would have to pay a refund. The man pressed to clarify this point but was only told the manner of returning the money was not yet decided.

The man took the situation to an out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) entity, set up to handle disputes over compensation payments stemming from the Fukushima disaster. The organization rejected TEPCO’s argument and said that the man was still in evacuation and had no duty to return the funds. It also proposed a settlement in which TEPCO would pay several millions of yen to the man, but TEPCO refused to follow the organization’s non-binding proposal.

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