The Tokyo District Court ordered the state and a health ministry employee Wednesday to pay a combined 550,000 yen in damages to a woman who was forced to pluck the whiskers from a coworker’s face.

The man pestered the woman, in her 30s and from Kanagawa Prefecture, to pluck his beard growth around November 2004 while she was a temporary employee at a Tokyo branch office of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Employment Security Bureau, according to the court.

She told him to do it himself, but the man forced her to pluck his beard, the court said, without elaborating.

“The request itself notably lacked appropriateness, and continuing to make the request even though the plaintiff had clearly refused is an illegal act that goes beyond moral criticism,” Judge Masaki Katano said.

In October 2004, the man called the woman into a reception room, where he yelled at her for about 20 minutes, believing she had criticized him behind his back for having taken time off. He told her to speak to him directly if she had any complaints about him.

Katano also ruled that as the man’s employer, the state was also liable.

The Employment Security Bureau chief had given the man a warning for having harassed the woman on another occasion. The man was not identified.

An official at the bureau said the court’s decision that the state was also liable was “harsh.”

The woman, whose current status was not reported, had demanded 5 million yen in compensation.

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