He sits in an office of a major Japanese sportswear maker, but reports to no one. He is assigned odd tasks like translating into English the manual on company rules like policies on vacations and daily hours, although he has minimal foreign-language skills.
He was sidelined as retribution for taking paternity leaves after each of his two sons was born, he says. Now he is the plaintiff in one of the first lawsuits in Japan over “pata-hara,” or paternity harassment, as it is known there. The first hearing is scheduled for this week.
His case is unusual in a country that values loyalty to the company, long hours and foregone vacations, especially from male employees. He asked not to be named for fear of further retribution.
The man, whose sons are now four and one, was initially assigned to a sales-marketing section at Asics, where he rubbed shoulders with athletes, but was suddenly sent to a warehouse after his first paternity leave in 2015, according to his lawsuit. After he hurt his shoulder, he was assigned to the section he is in now, where he says he is forced to sit and do little.
He wants his original assignment back and ￥4.4 million (US$41,000) in damages.
Asics said it plans to fight the allegations in court, adding that it was “regrettable” no agreement could be reached, despite repeated efforts.
“Our company remains committed to pushing diversity, and we plan to foster a work environment and support system so all workers can stay productive during pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing,” it said in a statement.
Makoto Yoshida, a professor of social studies at Ritsumeikan University, said that acceptance of paternity leave will take decades in Japan because it goes to the heart of corporate culture, which includes not being able to refuse transfers.
“A boss is apt to think a worker who takes paternity leave is useless. The boss is likely never to have taken paternity leave himself,” Yoshida said. “And once an office sees a worker getting bad treatment for taking paternity leave, no one else is going to want to do it.”
Japanese law guarantees men and women up to one year leave from work after a child is born. Parents are not guaranteed pay from their companies, but are eligible for government aid while off.
Many workers do not take allocated paid vacations or parental leave. Only 6 percent of eligible fathers take paternity leave, according to Japanese government data. More than 80 percent of working women take maternity leave, although that is after about half quit to get married or have a baby.
While companies are encouraged to promote parental leave and many have expressed their support for taking time off to raise families, critics say the directives are not trickling down to employees on the ground.
The government, concerned about a drastically declining birthrate, among the lowest in the world, is even considering making parental leave mandatory.
In the US, federal laws do not guarantee paid parental leave, but many companies offer such benefits. European nations vary, but most offer some type of government-backed paid paternity leave. Sweden and other Scandinavian nations boast the best record for supporting parents. Canada also has a relatively generous system for paid parental leave. Other companies in Japan — a subsidiary of major electronics company NEC Corp and chemical maker Kaneka Corp — have recently been accused of paternity harassment.
They deny the allegations.
The case getting the most attention is that of Glen Wood, a Canadian, who is fighting to get his brokerage manager job back at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley.
Wood was still negotiating with his bosses to take three or four weeks of paternity leave when his son was born six weeks premature in Nepal.
Wood said that his bosses were extremely reluctant to let him take time off, but he decided he had to go. The doctors told him he had to go immediately to see his baby in intensive care.
Wood returned to work five months later, in March 2016, after his son recovered and could be safely brought to Japan.
However, he was barraged with what he alleges is harassment at work. His job assignment was changed. He was chided for not showing up at meetings he had not been invited to. He was ordered to take DNA tests to prove he was really the father, which he did, as well as psychiatric tests by two doctors, who both said he was fine. He was dismissed last year.
“Whenever anybody puts up their hand and says they’re harassed, basically that person becomes the weirdo, and that person ends up getting harassed,” Wood said.
Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley denies any paternity harassment and has stressed it intends to fight the allegations in court.
Wood has gotten thousands of signatures on an online petition expressing support for his case and opposing harassment, including comments from Japanese, mostly fathers, who said they were facing similar experiences.
Taken off the career track, the father who works at Asics says he feels helpless. Still, he is proud of how he did all the cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping while he was on leave.
Naoto Sasayama, his lawyer, said his client believes in standing up for what is right.
“He was being made an example of,” Sasayama said. “This case raises the important question of whether a person must value company over family.”
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic