A store manager with hamburger chain McDonalds in Japan who died of a brain haemorrhage was a victim of “karoshi” or death by overwork, a regional labour office said.

The woman, employed at an outlet in Yokohama near Tokyo and reportedly aged 41, had done more than 80 hours of overtime per month before she collapsed in October 2007 during a training programme at a different store. She died in hospital three days later, said an official at the Kanagawa Labour Bureau on Wednesday, which oversees the Yokohama region.

“We determined her work caused the illness,” said the official in charge of work-related compensation, a decision that makes her dependent family members eligible to receive a public pension. “She had early symptoms such as headaches some three weeks before she collapsed, and we presume she already had the illness at that point.”

McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd declined to comment on the case, with a spokesman saying only that the company had not been contacted by authorities and had not confirmed the decision by itself. The woman had performed more than 80 hours of overtime a month on average for the six months before she suffered early symptoms, although she had a vacation shortly before she collapsed in October, the official said.

Japan’s welfare and labour ministry investigates whether deaths are caused by excessive work if the victim had performed monthly overtime of 80 hours or more for the preceding six months, or 100 hours for the previous one month. The number of deaths, usually through strokes or heart attacks, in Japan that are classified as “karoshi” has been hovering at around 150 annually in recent years, according to ministry data.

McDonald’s suffered a blow to its image when a Tokyo court last year ordered it to pay compensation of more than $US70,000 ($A76,252) to an employee who had performed unpaid overtime for several years. The plaintiff, who had carried the job title of store manager, had earlier said he sometimes worked more than 100 hours of unpaid overtime in a month.

Japan’s labour laws do not oblige companies to pay overtime to workers in managerial posts. McDonald’s argued their store chiefs have a say in management decisions, but the court rejected that argument.

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