On the front page of the Mainichi Daily News today is news that a former company employee is demanding ￥69.3million in damages for “Power Harassment” at work, after he was repeatedly verbally abused and got so depressed that he quit his job.
According to the report, the man, in his forties, is suing an industrial chemical firm, Kawamura Yakuhin, the company’s president, and the firm’s parent company, Konishiyasu (a trading company), in the Sapporo District Court.
The man claims that the abuse started in 2005, when the president of the company told him “There is something wrong with your brain.” Apparently, the verbal abuse even went to the extreme of making all the employees sit around the man and criticize him, pointing out his bad points, sometimes for up to three hours, every time the man made a mistake at work. Other points of contention include a demotion at work in which his computer was also taken away, restricting his regular work.
Unsurprisingly, the man was diagnosed with depression after suffering sleepless nights and shaking hands last year, and consequently he resigned from work.
Both Kawamura Yakuhin and Konishiyasu refused to comment.
These kinds of law-suits are becoming common place in Japan. Just last year, the wife of a man who committed suicide due to his employer’s verbal abuse won a court case against the company—the judge ruled that the abuse drove the man to suicide. Although this was the first of such cases with a successful outcome, there have been a multitude of similar cases to follow as people learn that corporate bullying is steadfastly becoming illegal and intolerable. However, the sad truth still remains that as part of the Japanese work ethic, “being cruel to be kind” is prominent in many companies here. With thousands of young recruits just starting work this month, many are likely to be experiencing this kind of treatment whilst having to accept the gaman or “grin-and-bear-it” kind of attitude.
Just as “death-from-overwork” (karoshi) is a well used term in the Japanese language, “power harassment” (power-hara) is quickly becoming synonymous with corporate Japan.
Mainichi Daily News article (English): http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080423p2a00m0na025000c.html
The successful suicide case from last year (Japanese): http://mainichi.jp/select/today/archive/news/2007/10/15/20071016k0000m04...
Another power-harassment story, yet again leading to suicide (Japanese): http://mainichi.jp/select/today/archive/news/2008/01/11/20080111k0000m04...
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