Japanese sues Asics for moral harassment after paternity leave

The lawsuit of a company accused by an employee of moral harassment because he took paternity leave opened on Thursday in Tokyo, a case very rarely worn so far before the courts in Japan.
Theplaintiff, a 38-year-old Japanese man who wants to remain anonymous, is claiming 4.4 million yen (nearly CAN $ 54,000) in damages from his employer, the Japanese sports equipment manufacturer Asics.

While in marketing and human resources at Asics, he was transferred from a one-year paternity leave in 2015-2016 to a position unrelated to his skill level in a warehouse. a logistics subsidiary.

He then managed to find a job at headquarters, but his employer would have given him “unnecessary tasks”, he said, denouncing a “silent pressure” for him to resign. He took a second paternity leave in 2018-2019, after the birth of a new child.

On Thursday, the complainant told the judges that his employer had criticized him for not playing “collective”.

“But it’s wrong. I think the company is trying to crush an individual who wanted to correct an injustice, “he said. “In fact, management seems to want men to work and women to stay at home,” he added.

Asics, on the other hand, denied any intention to harm his employee and assured himself that he had “sincerely” tried to settle the dispute by negotiating with him, his lawyer and the staff representatives.

“It is unfortunate that we have not found a solution. We hope to clarify the facts during the trial, “said the group in a statement.

Housewife, an incongruity in Japan

On paper, Japanese law is rather generous in terms of parental leave: it allows both mother and father to pause for up to a year after the birth of a child. In addition, this leave may be extended beyond one year if no place in a crèche is available.

Employees are not paid by the employer during parental leave, but state aid exists to compensate.

Among the labor force in Japan, more than 80% of mothers take parental leave, but only 6% of fathers use it. And among them, more than 70% are absent within a fortnight.

The Japanese employees are viewed with a very bad eye when they take paternity leave, although the law allows them, told AFP Naoto Sasayama, the plaintiff’s lawyer.

“The culture that has been established in post-war Japan expects a man to be the sole provider of income (from his family, NDRL). Housewives are considered extremely strange, “according to the lawyer.

The lawsuits for moral harassment following paternity leave – a phenomenon dubbed “pata-hara” in Japan – are very rare in the country. Another such lawsuit is currently under way between a Canadian national and Mitsubishi Investment Bank UFJ Morgan Stanley.

In this type of litigation, judges tend to favor companies because of the difficulty of proving that a case of moral harassment is directly related to the taking of paternity leave, according to lawyers of employees.

The Japanese government is trying to raise the fertility rate in the country, one of the lowest in the world (1.42 children per woman in 2018), for example by increasing the number of places in nursery and encouraging mothers to stay in the family. to re-enter the labor market.

But this is not obvious in a company that continues to value employees working overtime.

The mentalities are changing, however: Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said in August that he planned to take paternity leave after the birth of his first child, scheduled for early 2020.

This did not stop Wednesday this rising star of Japanese policy to enter the government of Shinzo Abe during a reshuffle, recovering the portfolio of the Environment.

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