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Olympus settles with whistleblower over ‘abuse of authority’

Kyodo

An employee of Olympus Corp. reached a settlement Thursday in a dispute over his treatment after he blew the whistle on his boss, winning ¥11 million in compensation.

Masaharu Hamada, 55, filed a lawsuit against Olympus with the Tokyo District Court in 2012, seeking ¥26 million in damages because he felt the company continued to treat him inappropriately even after a top court nullified a job transfer order.

In the court settlement, Olympus admitted that it should have given Hamada better treatment. It promised to treat him fairly in future.

The president will also send a message to employees to inform them of the content of the settlement in a bid to restore Hamada’s reputation.

A lawyer for Hamada said it is rare for a company to communicate the substance of a labor settlement to its workforce.

For his part, Hamada agreed to withdraw a lawsuit about an in-house document that he believes discredited him.

“I’m glad that I was able to come to terms with the company eight years after I filed the first lawsuit,” Hamada told a news conference. “I want this case to be the starting line for the company to turn itself into one that does not allow injustice, not just saying superficially ‘We protect whistleblowers.’ ”

In 2007, Hamada fingered his boss over apparent attempts to recruit an employee of a trading partner in violation of competition law. He was subsequently moved around to several different departments in the company.

The Tokyo High Court called the company’s actions an “abuse of authority over personnel issues” and told it to pay him ¥2.2 million — a punishment that was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2012.

Olympus subsequently proposed that Hamada go to work for a subsidiary; he refused. Although seeking a position in the legal compliance division, Hamada was forced to relocate to a section unrelated to his previous career.