• Kyodo, Jiji

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Toyota Motor Corp. has come to a settlement with the family of a male employee who killed himself in 2017, acknowledging that his suicide was caused by harassment from his superior, a senior Toyota official said Monday.

Under the out-of-court settlement dated April 7, Toyota admitted to its violation of its duty to care for the safety of its employees and paid damages, according to the major automaker.

The amount of the damages has not been disclosed.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda visited the family in November 2019 and April this year to offer an apology.

Local labor authorities determined in September 2019 that the then-28-year-old employee was suffering from adjustment disorder as a result of harassment from his superior, who constantly abused him verbally by calling him names like "moron" and telling him "You'd be better off dead," according to a lawyer for the family.

Toyota has put in place measures to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

"We will continue to work toward creating a comfortable workplace climate by promoting preventive measures and without tolerating harassment by superiors," the automaker said in a statement.

The deceased employee graduated from the University of Tokyo's graduate school and joined the automaker in April 2015 and started designing vehicles at its headquarters in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, from March 2016.

After being routinely subject to verbal abuse at the department, he developed adjustment disorder and took a leave of absence in July 2016.

He was later assigned to another section upon returning to work in October that year, but his former superior was sitting close to him.

The employee had repeatedly told those around him that he wanted to change his seat and that he wanted to die and feel better.

He committed suicide in his dorm room in late October 2017.

In April 2020, Toyota revised its in-house rules to clarify penalties for harassment by superiors, among other steps to prevent a recurrence.

The automaker opened a consultation service for employees to report workplace issues anonymously and has decided to conduct monthly surveys with employees in their first three years at the company. The measures, designed to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy, were drawn up through discussions with the family of the suicide victim.

"A member of our group should not have to take his own life," a senior Toyota official said Monday, apologizing for the incident.

The former senior has been punished, but the details of the punishment have not been revealed.

"Whether Toyota has truly changed depends on future measures and responses to workplace incidents," the victim's family said in a statement through its lawyer.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a detailed list of resources and assistance.

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