It’s another prize . . . but maybe not one that the management at Dentsu Inc. will be proud of.
The major ad agency has been awarded this year’s Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award, also known as the Black Company Award, a corporate raspberry prize given to companies with a culture of overwork, discrimination and harassment, a group of journalists and rights activists announced Friday.
The suicide of one of its workers, Matsuri Takahashi, 24, was recognized as work-related in October. After pushing more than 100 hours of overtime per month, she committed suicide in her company dorm on Christmas Day last year.
“Dear Dentsu Inc., your 24-year-old new employee, Matsuri Takahashi, committed suicide on Dec. 25, 2015. She worked 105 hours of overtime, which is extremely long. In addition, she was suffering from power harassment from her bosses, and was mentally pressured,” said Tokachi Tsuchiya, a film director who is a member of the selection committee.
“On Twitter, she wrote, ‘I don’t want to work,’ and ‘two hours of sleep everyday is extreme.’ Several days before her death, she retweeted a post about the 2015 Black Company Award. She retweeted about this moment right now. It’s regrettable,” he said.
Before her death, Takahashi sent a message to her mother saying: “Goodbye, my lovely mother.”
Takahashi’s case was the second confirmed work-related suicide of a Dentsu employee. Another worker, Ichiro Oshima, who was also 24, died in 1991.
In addition, earlier this year, the 2013 death of a 30-year-old male Dentsu employee from illness was ruled as induced by overwork.
Since 1951, the company’s employees were urged to follow “Dentsu’s 10 Principles,” which included such items as “Never give up on your task. Treat it as if it was your own life with utmost determination and responsibility,” according to an English version of the list. But a direct translation of the Japanese edition can be read as: “Never give up on your task, not even if you die, until you accomplish it.”
Following requests from her family and lawyer Hiroshi Kawahito to remove all references to the principles from the handbooks it distributes to all employees, Dentsu announced earlier this month that they will be deleted from April next year.
Winners in other categories of the award include Japan Post Co., which won both the web vote award and a special award for garnering the highest number of votes online, and DWE Japan, operator of the Shabu Shabu Onyasai chain of izakaya (pubs), for its exploitative work practices for part-timers.
The award, which this year marked its fifth anniversary, examines overtime, sexual and power harassment, bullying, low salary, discrimination against temporary workers, and other abuses at dodgy companies.
“The purpose of the award is not to simply name names, but to raise awareness that these corporations should not exist in our society,” said lawyer Ryo Sakaki, who was also a member of the selection committee.
“The news reports about such companies will be forgotten as time passes. But we’d like everyone to remember once again that these abusive companies do exist by presenting the Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award,” he said.