Time to consign ‘death by overwork’ to Japan’s history

A 24-year-old pressured to work long, hard hours beyond what she could tolerate at the largest advertising agency in Japan jumped from her third-floor dorm room on Christmas Day of last year.

This story went viral, and labor researchers around the country mumbled to themselves, “Dentsu again?”

Dentsu is an ad giant notorious for brutal work hours and its merciless management style. Any labor law textbook worth its salt that covers karōshi (death by overwork) will also introduce the Supreme Court’s famous Dentsu death-by-overwork case. In August 1991 a man, also 24, hanged himself at his home. In 2000, Japan’s highest court ruled that the “suicide was caused by horrendous working conditions.” Eventually Dentsu and the surviving family agreed on a settlement of ¥168 million.

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| ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS MACKENZIE

Japan sees progress on sexual harassment, but some still don’t get it

BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI

Once upon a time, the English word “harassment” was unfamiliar to Japanese ears. Over the past quarter-century the word has burrowed its way deep into the collective consciousness, at times even replacing the Japanese word iyagarase. Today one would be hard-put to find a citizen unfamiliar with the English version and its many derivatives (see below).

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Japan College of Foreign Languages Local Conducts Recruitment Leafleting, Braves Illegal and Dangerous Management Harassment

JCFL Members braved the rain and management harassment on Thursday, January 22 to conduct a recruitment leafleting to in front of the JCFL Takadanobaba campus during their lunch break.

At 12:30, Case officer Gerome Rothman and three union members arrived at the front gate. They began leafleting instructors and staff.

Shortly after the union began, management deployed several non-union staffers to interfere with the leafleting. Management first told the union they would call the police. The union responded by insisting management stop interfering with our legitimate union activity.

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‘Maternity harassment’ verdict benefits women, men — and our humanity

Last Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict in the “maternity harassment” case brought by a physical therapist in Hiroshima was the first of its kind, overturning decades of business-friendly jurisprudence along with rulings from the district and high courts.

As I mentioned in last year’s September Labor Pains (“Mata-hara: turning the clock back on women’s rights”), the word mata-hara is short for maternity harassment, just as seku-hara and pawa-hara refer to sexual harassment and power harassment, respectively. Maternity harassment means workplace discrimination against pregnant or childbearing women, including dismissal, contract nonrenewal and wage cuts.

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