SAPPORO (Kyodo) A 35-year-old man who was ostracized and then fired after he complained about his coworkers’ smoking received a record ¥7 million in damages from his employer Wednesday at the Sapporo District Court’s Takikawa branch.
The damages, which came in a court-arbitrated settlement, are believed the highest ever awarded over passive smoking, according to Masayoshi Tsukahara, the lawyer for the employee, who wants his name withheld.
The plaintiff, who worked at a construction material maker in Takikawa, which has also not been named, had demanded ¥23 million in damages.
According to Tsukahara, his client joined the company in January 2007, only to find out his heavy-smoking colleagues kept puffing throughout office hours at their own desks.
The employee soon started suffering chronic headaches and nausea. Although he asked the company to set up a smoking section, his plea was not just rejected but angered managers instead, the lawyer said.
Then the man was fired in November that year for unjustifiable reasons, the employee told the court earlier.
The man quoted one of his seniors as telling him, “If you don’t like it here, you’d better find another job elsewhere.
“If we ban smoking in the office, our clients can’t smoke even if they want to, and that would hurt our business,” the senior employee also said.
The president of the company told reporters at that time the company fired the employee for the sake of his health, adding that it took adequate steps to handle smoking, including installing an air cleaner in the office.
But his dismissal was retracted after the employee sued the company in a separate suit in January 2008 and the court nullified the company’s move. Then the company agreed to set up a smoking section in the office.
However, when the man’s health problems continued and developed into what his doctor diagnosed as a “chemical sensitivity from secondhand smoke,” he filed suit.
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