The labor ministry referred Mitsubishi Electric Corp. to prosecutors Wednesday on suspicion of forcing excessive overtime on a male employee, who subsequently developed a psychological disorder and was laid off.
The Tokyo-based electronics manufacturer allegedly made a 31-year-old man work far longer than the maximum 60 hours of monthly overtime — set in a labor-management agreement — after he joined the company in April 2013, according to his lawyer.
His supervisor at the time was also referred to prosecutors for an alleged violation of the Labor Standards Law.
“We will sincerely deal with the matter,” a public relations official at Mitsubishi said, adding that the company would take steps to keep working hours at appropriate levels.
The postdoctoral employee, who was dismissed last June, was assigned to work at the company’s Information Technology R&D Center in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.
He reportedly worked more than 100 hours of overtime in January 2014, and more than 160 hours the following month. But he reported just 59 hours and 30 minutes of overtime for the period from Jan. 16 through Feb. 15, just below the 60 hour limit.
The man said he was instructed by a superior to report fewer hours than he actually worked.
The ministry reported to prosecutors around 78 hours of overtime that has been corroborated during the investigation.
The man was dismissed after he did not return to work following the completion of a company-mandated period of treatment.
He was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder in April 2014 and was treated for depression before he was dismissed.
The local labor standards office certified in November that he worked more than 100 hours of overtime a month and recognized his illness as work-related.
The man said he had suicidal thoughts after having no days off for more than a month and repeatedly having abuse hurled at him by his superior.
“No one seems to think there is something wrong with a corporate culture that pushes employees to their limits to achieve results,” the man said in an interview. “I hope more people become aware that violating labor standards laws is a crime.”
His superior ridiculed him by saying, “How could you complete your doctorate?” and “Even a junior high school student can do (your job),” the man said. He also criticized the company for seeking a results-focused atmosphere that put “employees in extreme situations.”
The latest case was brought to light as the government tackles the problem of excessive working hours. The December 2015 suicide of a 24-year-old Dentsu employee, triggered by overwork and abuse, has brought renewed public attention to the issue.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged business leaders last week to push for a fundamental reform of working conditions to eradicate problems associated with the culture of long hours and poor treatment of part-time staff.