A gay man in his 20s has reached a rare out-of-court settlement with the company he used to work for after a superior revealed his sexual orientation without his consent, people involved in the case said Saturday.
The firm in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward apologized and has promised to pay damages for causing mental distress, they said, in a development that many hope will help eliminate discrimination of LGBT people.
Experts on issues related to sexual minorities have pointed out that an out-of-court settlement over damage caused by outing someone is extremely unusual as legal disputes on the matter are uncommon in Japan, where misunderstandings and misconceptions about LGBT people persist.
The central government has designated outing and insults against LGBT people as abuses of power in its guidelines of a law enacted in June that requires firms to take measures against such abuse. But experts argue the efforts are limited in scope and are calling for the state to take more explicit actions.
The man recalls the “long and painful days” he spent until the out-of-court settlement. “I’m happy if (this case) could provide an opportunity to eliminate outing from society and the workplace,” he said.
Upon joining the company last year, the man revealed his sexual orientation to the firm and said he wanted to disclose it to his colleagues when he was ready to do so, according to a labor union supporting him.
A few months later, a female part-time worker started avoiding him and later quit.
The man later found out during a drinking party that she had learned from the superior that he was gay. “I thought there was no problem telling that to just one person,” the superior told him while laughing.
The man has since been diagnosed with mental illness and eventually took a leave of absence. In June, he consulted with the Toshima Ward office based on its ordinance prohibiting outing.
As a result of negotiations with the man and the labor union, the company admitted to the outing by the superior and apologized to the man in late October. It also recognized responsibility for causing the man’s mental illness.
The company confirmed it reached the settlement, saying, “We will take the matter seriously and make efforts to ensure a similar problem will never happen again.”
The man said he plans to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Kyodo News has chosen not to disclose the company’s name and other details due to the settlement conditions between the two parties.
The issue of outing and its consequences was spotlighted in Japan in 2015 when a Hitotsubashi University graduate student died in an apparent suicide after his romantic interest divulged his sexual orientation to his peers.
About 25 percent of LGBT people in the country have experienced outing, a recent private survey showed.
“Society and our workplaces simply do not understand how outing is painful and harsh for us,” said the man involved in the Toshima Ward case. He continues to seek medical treatment.
Yasushi Nagano, a lawyer well-versed in LGBT issues, praised the outcome of the case, saying it is “extremely groundbreaking and a big step toward eliminating discrimination.”
Nagano stressed the need for the central and local governments to make efforts to raise people’s awareness over outing, while looking to create national legislation aimed at banning discrimination.
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