The family of a 22-year-old Zeria Pharmaceutical Co. worker who took his own life during a training program has filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court, seeking damages totaling around ¥100 million from the company, the consulting agency responsible for conducting part of the training program and its instructor at the time.
The family claims the suicide was the result of depression triggered by psychological damage after the worker was forced to confess past experiences of being bullied.
According to the family’s lawyer, the man joined the Tokyo-based company in April 2013 as a sales representative and developed depression during a training program for new employees. He killed himself in May of that year on his way home from the site of the program.
The consulting agency responsible for the program, which was scheduled to run through that August, gave a course in which groups of trainees were made to confess their worries and weaknesses. During the course, an instructor told the man that he stammered and made him confess his experience of being bullied in the past, according to the lawyer.
The man submitted a report in which he wrote that he was very shocked that his peers now knew something he wanted to be kept secret. The instructor returned the report to the man with a written message, telling him to “wake up.”
The Central Labor Standards Inspection Office in Tokyo recognized the case as a work-related death in May 2015, acknowledging the link between the suicide and the training program and how the man developed a mental disorder due to severe psychological distress suffered from the course.
“I have never heard him stammer or about him being bullied,” said the man’s 59-year-old father. “He might have been pressured to say those things. I want the company to reveal the truth.”
The family is also claiming the man worked more than 100 hours of overtime a month at the time.
Zeria Pharmaceutical declined to comment, saying it was the first time something like this has ever happened in the 40 years it has been conducting training programs. The consulting agency said it does not force trainees to confess sensitive matters and that it is not liable for damages.