“Honestly, I wanted to smash everything in the place.”
Noriko is thinking of her own plight, but she speaks for multitudes of disgruntled workers. Revenge! What employee hasn’t longed for it at one time or another? In days gone by, it rarely went beyond impotent rage. Lately, reports Spa! (Sept 23), the rage is getting potent. Noriko’s nearly toppled the welfare facility she works for, and in the workaday world, she’s got plenty of company.
She’s 32, a part-time dietician who guides mentally disabled patients in making “bento” packaged meals for sale to other institutions. “This is the work I’d wanted to do since my student days, and for the first year or two I was very happy,” she tells Spa!
That changed when management decided to expand the bento-making operation and start selling to ordinary companies. The kitchen was thrown into chaos. The patients couldn’t cope, and Noriko found herself on the go from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.-- for 170,000 yen a month. Her overtime was classed as “voluntary,” therefore unpaid.
When, after five years, she collapsed from depression, her boss added insult to injury by berating her for being “weak” -- meaning ineligible for paid sick leave. That was the last straw. Noriko would teach the whole institution a lesson it would never forget.
Her first tentative step was a call to the Labor Standards Bureau: “I work for a concern that doesn’t pay overtime, and pressure from my boss put me in hospital. What should I do?” The reply suggested lengthy procedures to go through, which Noriko hadn’t the patience for. But she got lucky. A patient cut her hand with a knife while working in the kitchen, and management instructed the staff to keep quiet about it. Noriko promptly threatened to report the cover-up to the bureau.
“Suddenly,” she says,” the attitude changed.” A 100,000-yen-a-month sick leave package was granted without further ado.
But Noriko was not finished. Hearing from a colleague while she was recuperating that her leave hadn’t been reported to government welfare monitors, she phoned City Hall and said, “I hear that facility has failed to report that its dietician is on leave.” A surprise inspection followed, which, when word got out, badly shook the facility’s reputation.
“Serves them right,” is Noriko’s verdict.
A revised version of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law went into effect in April 2007 without settling the vexed question of sexual harassment, which remains rampant -- partly because it is ill-defined. Anyway, Ryoko, a 34-year-old advertising company employee, didn’t really consider herself sexually harassed. But all claims are fair in love, war and the pursuit of revenge.
“We were two women in my section,” Ryoko tells Spa! “The other was young and very pretty. Our boss showed her every favoritism. Frankly, it got to me.”
She seethed in silence, until one day the boss said to her, “You seem to be gaining weight.”
“I saw red,” Ryoko says. At the next section meeting, she publicly accused the boss of sexual harassment, artfully maneuvering the younger woman into admitting, somewhat grudgingly, that the boss was in the habit of making suggestive remarks. Soon the story was all over the office. The boss was demoted.
“To be honest,” she admits, “what he said to me wasn’t sexual harassment. But he was justly punished for showing her such favoritism.”
Sexual harassment is one thing, “power harassment” is another. Kunio considers himself a victim of the latter. He’s 30 years old and works for a chain retailer. Spa! describes his store manager -- ex-manager, rather -- as “sadistic.”
“What were you doing yesterday?” he invariably barked on the morning following Kunio’s day off.
“I was off yesterday.”
“That’s not what I asked you! What were you doing? We were swamped here, and you were off!”
The astonishing result of this browbeating is that Kunio gave up taking days off. He worked 65 days straight, finally collapsing and waking up in hospital.
To the manager, it looked like malingering. “What’s a weakling like him doing on my hands?” he grumbled, according to a colleague who visited Kunio in hospital.
“Never before,” says Kunio, “had I hated anyone so badly I wanted to kill.”
A lawyer helped him get the sick leave pay the manager had withheld. His follow-up complaints resulted in the manager being demoted.
It wasn’t enough. “I went to the guy’s house,” he gloats to Spa! “and flattened his car tires for him.” A symbolic murder, if not a real one.© Japan Today