National

Japan to require firms to clearly ban power harassment

JIJI, Kyodo

A subcommittee of a labor ministry panel on Wednesday gave its approval to draft guidelines on preventing power harassment in workplaces, requiring companies to clearly ban such practices.

The draft, approved by the Labor Policy Council subcommittee, lists detailed examples of problematic actions, such as repeatedly reprimanding employees in an intimidating manner in front of other people, based on six typical types of power harassment.

The draft guidelines were compiled based on an amended labor law that was enacted in May. After soliciting public comments, the ministry hopes to formalize the guidelines by year-end for implementation from June 2020.

Under the new guidelines, companies would also be obliged to set up power harassment consultation offices and implement measures such as separating victims from harassers. Also, they would be prohibited from unfavorably treating workers who use such consultation services.

Among the six power harassment types stipulated in the draft guidelines are psychological attacks and cutting employees off from relationships with other people, such as by bullying or ignoring them.

Examples of problematic behaviors also include saying and doing things that deny employees’ dignity, beating and kicking, and exposing employees’ personal information, including sexual preferences, without their consent.

In line with supplementary resolutions adopted by both chambers of the Diet when the amended law was enacted, the draft says it is desirable for companies to also clearly ban power harassment against outside people, including job-hunting students and freelance workers.

Meanwhile, the draft says that actions such as giving warnings with a “certain level of severity” to workers who have behaved in a seriously problematic way and having workers slapped with disciplinary actions undergo necessary training in a different room do not amount to power harassment.

Tsuyoshi Fukai, a lawyer specializing in labor issues, said the guidelines are ambiguous and leave room for various interpretations.

“In a lawsuit, (a company) can say a case does not fall under the definition of harassment if it is in a gray area.”

In the subcommittee’s past meetings, the side representing workers strongly requested that consideration should be paid to the views of victims when determining power harassment. The request, however, was met with strong opposition from those representing managers.

In the end, the two sides agreed that work to confirm the facts in each case should be done carefully while the mental and physical state of workers and how they view the cases are taken into consideration.