Japan is struggling with one of the world's lowest birth rates Photo: AFP/File
national

Canadian father sues Japanese firm for paternity leave harassment

47 Comments
By Miwa Suzuki

A Canadian father who alleges he was bullied and fired by his Japanese employer after he tried to claim paternity leave appeared in a Tokyo court Wednesday to pursue his lawsuit against the firm.

It is the second paternity leave harassment case to be heard in Japan in recent weeks, casting a rare spotlight on the issue in a country struggling with one of the world's lowest birth rates.

Glen Wood, 49, a resident of Japan for three decades, was working at brokerage house Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities when his son was born prematurely in October 2015.

Wood says he applied for paternity leave before his son was born in Nepal, where his partner was working, seeking to exercise a right guaranteed by Japanese law.

But, he says, the firm dragged its feet, and he even submitted a DNA test to prove his relation to his son.

"I knew it was a sort of old fashioned thinking type of company but I was still very surprised, even when it was an emergency and my son was in the ICU (intensive care unit), that they wouldn't let me take paternity leave," he told AFP before the hearing Wednesday.

"I think it was viewed really as an act of treason for a man to take paternity leave," he added.

It was not until Christmas Day 2015 that he received approval to take leave and see his son.

He returned to work in March 2016 after bringing his baby to Japan but alleges he was subsequently sidelined at work, treatment he says contributed to him suffering depression and taking six months of medical leave.

When he returned, the firm put him on unpaid leave before eventually firing him.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities has denied any harassment, and said it supports the rights of employees to take their legally mandated parental leave.

But the case, first filed in 2017, comes at a time of heightened interest in the issue of so-called patahara.

Last month, a Tokyo court held the first hearing in the case of a Japanese man suing sportswear maker Asics over allegations he was effectively demoted after taking paternity leave.

By law, Japan offers comparatively generous parental leave. Both parents can take up to a year off, with additional renewable six-month periods if a nursery place is unavailable.

But only six percent of fathers take parental leave, compared to more than 80 percent of mothers who use their allowance beyond the mandatory eight weeks after birth.

The disparity, activists say, is partly due to pressure from employers and a society that prizes long work hours.

Among the small number of men in Japan who take paternity leave, more than 70 percent are away for less than a fortnight.

The Japanese government recently announced it hopes to increase the proportion of men who take paternity leave to 13 per cent by 2020.

There have been only a handful of suits brought in Japan by alleged victims of patahara, with judges tending to favor employers because of the difficulty in proving that perceived mistreatment was triggered by employees taking leave, lawyers say.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

47 Comments
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Well done! This is good publicity for Japan's archaic work psyche, and the dinosaurs that have brainwashed Japan's youth into thinking this is normal. Actually being ignored at work for taking time off, which he is legally entitled to, to see his newborn son. Utterly shameful

37 ( +39 / -2 )

Agreed with Vince. I hope we get a follow up article on the results.

Good luck, Mr. Wood!

27 ( +29 / -2 )

I agree, well done! I am very pleased to see a father taking the lead to stand up to the social pressures (or brainwashing as Vince says) corporations put on their employees. The question of patahara needs to be addressed in the courts before corporations will start to take a serious look to follow the rules.

21 ( +23 / -2 )

Standard practice to admonish staff for having a life outside of work. Hope it changes. It will only change if people stand up to these archaic practices. But I would be suprised if he got anything from the courts. They are there to protect the status quo not enforce law.

22 ( +24 / -2 )

He returned to work in March 2016 after bringing his baby to Japan but alleges he was subsequently sidelined at work, treatment he says contributed to him suffering depression and taking six months of medical leave.

When he returned, the firm put him on unpaid leave before eventually firing him.

I read about his case from a link on youtube, I thought the case was put on hold

about getting fired after taking medical leave, thats a clear case of exceptionalism because I have seen several Japanese take months of leave for "depression" for ijime cases, and it was kind of bizarre, to be honest. I suffered from the same harrassment but would never think of taking such leave, nor would it even be granted.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

more than 70 percent are away for less than a fortnight

Couldn't just say 2 weeks?

There are many things that need to change. Valuing long hours over actual production. While companies are bad for their practices the government should equally share the blame. There are many benefits that people don't know about in Japan. It is extremely difficult to access that information even in Japanese and neither the government nor companies make people aware of their rights.

Finally, when people actually exercise those rights, they are punished. Even when the punishment is illegal, the government doesn't make things easy by creating a system that makes fighting these injustices so difficult. It took over 2 years for his case to be heard. This entire time he's racked up legal fees that would eat away at most of any compensation he receives.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Yeah....good luck with that. Wave goodbye to any career you might have had at the very least.

-13 ( +7 / -20 )

Yeah....good luck with that. Wave goodbye to any career you might have had at the very least.

What a terrible thing to say

17 ( +19 / -2 )

I will never understand the fact that Japan wants more people to start families but won't give them essential things so that you can actually start a family like paternity leave. Let's not even talk about the lack of kindergartens/ nursery schools.

31 ( +32 / -1 )

Seems like an unusual case. Japanese companies are not solely organized to maximize value but also to enforce a rigid social order that favors older men who in turn support each other. As a foreigner he is not part of that system in the first place, but he blatantly threatened it. I respect what he is doing but wish more Japanese would step up and take the punch once in a while.

20 ( +21 / -1 )

Welcome to the 19th century.

21 ( +23 / -2 )

@No Business

@dabetsushi

It may sound horrible, but there is truth in what No business says. Black balling here is on a much deeper level. Black balling here is similar to the type you would find in Hollywood. He may win his case but it may make him untouchable by Japanese companies. Many wouldn't want to hire him.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

He may win his case but it may make him untouchable by Japanese companies. Many wouldn't want to hire him.

I agree but at the end of the day it may be for the best.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

There have been only a handful of suits brought in Japan by alleged victims of patahara, with judges tending to favor employers because of the difficulty in proving that perceived mistreatment was triggered by employees taking leave, lawyers say.

If the courts accept that there has been mistreatment, circumstantial evidence and the principle of Occram's razor should be sufficient for the court to rule in the claimant's favour.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Add to it that he's referred to as Canadian despite being "a resident of Japan for three decades"

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Good on him. I hope he wins big. (And by big, I mean in the Japanese court way - a reasonable payout based on lost wages and damage to future earnings together with some very strong language and a solid precedent for future cases.)

11 ( +12 / -1 )

So, he should have just taken a medical leave to begin with?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Wood says he applied for paternity leave before his son was born

How long before?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

It’s also a discrimination

6 ( +10 / -4 )

This is good for Japan. It takes foreigners to change and make Japan a better country. Japanese never dare to rock the boat.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

That canadian needs to suck it up and get back to work. How dare he demand free money living off the welfare of japan.

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

It’s a no win situation .

it starts at kindergarten.....

the culture of bullying

10 ( +13 / -3 )

The kid in the picture is bawling his head off prescience at its best....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the end, after many years of appeals, he might win a derisory sum in damages. Japanese courts always protect Japanese companies, no matter what the law says.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

That canadian needs to suck it up and get back to work. How dare he demand free money living off the welfare of japan.

dogger - I had to double check whether you were joking - you are not.

So to clarify, you are saying that Japanese companies are above the law in Japan and that individuals are not entitled to the protections it provides? Or are you saying that Japanese law does not apply to foreigners who live here?

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Add to it that he's referred to as Canadian despite being "a resident of Japan for three decades"

That is what he is. The duration of stay doesn't matter.

What about koreans who were forcefully brought here, their children and grand children born here in japan and know no other country and language other than japan and japanese are still foreigner.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Work for a japanese company, no thank you. You have to be tougher than teflon else you will become insane.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I sincerely encourage this guy.

But for info Canada has zero day of paternity leave. I know it I had tweens there...

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

@Open Minded

I am American and I had to work in Canada for 6 months to help oversee operations for the company I was working for at the time. Canada, by law, offers 35 weeks of paid paternity leave for fathers regardless of whether it is birth or adoption. So please check your own laws.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Hopeless work culture and stupid laws. You will ruin your life if you are working for a Japanese company.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I think everyone knows ex ante that Japan is a workaholic paradise. I don't go to Denny's expecting a 6 course meal. It is what it is.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

As usually, A Japanese company vs a foreigner and all the foreigners take the take the foreigner's side. It is funny how no one is asking about the facts of the case or the evidence.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

women: get demoted, ignored, or fired for taking maternity leave

men: get demoted, ignored, or fired for taking paternity leave

Japan Inc: WHY AREN'T ANY OF YOU HAVING BABIES??!!

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Japan needs real labor unions, with leaders and members with the actual guts who are willing to leverage their collective power to end the abuse and mistreatment.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

If you work in a competitive industry, you can't afford to take long paternity leave if you want to be successful. The law is a different story.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

@JJ Jetplane

Lucky you.

I work for a big international company that applies local low.

Have a look at this BBC link, which I believe is a trustable source.

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190615-parental-leave-how-rich-countries-compare

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think everyone knows ex ante that Japan is a workaholic paradise. I don't go to Denny's expecting a 6 course meal. It is what it is.

I must admit I’m running out of patience for this kind of thing.

Foreigners moaning about things Japan is notoriously bad at is getting irritating.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

That canadian needs to suck it up and get back to work. How dare he demand free money living off the welfare of japan.

Japan needs to suck it up. It's system is unjust and unfair.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

a country struggling with one of the world's lowest birth rates

But higher than Germany's, Spain's, Singapore's, Thailand's, and a bunch of others.

http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/total-fertility-rate/

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

... he's referred to as Canadian despite being a resident of Japan for three decades

Authorization to live in Japan and three decades residence in Japan doesn't mean he has Japanese citizenship. If that's the case he remains Canadian.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But for info Canada has zero day of paternity leave. I know it I had tweens there.

That is incorrect. They had paternity leave over 20 years ago. I know a number of males who took it.

However, the real focus here is Japan and Japanese law and should one be fired for exercising your rights under the law.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

But higher than Germany's, Spain's, Singapore's, Thailand's, and a bunch of others.

But still 20th from the bottom.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lack of children & population critical mass will (and is) destroy a culture more surely & thoroughly than any bomb or foreign power.

In this case, recalcitrant stupidity is the enemy, and it is defeating Japanese culture with moronic decisions like this.

Just wait another five years when the aged farmers exit the labour market & domestic production of fruit & veg plummets, prices skyrocket, & Japanese labour becomes harder to hire & more discerning & demanding - then these clowns will really have something to squeal about.

Good luck to this "Canadian" dad that has given his entire working life to Japan. I hope he has HUGE win on behalf of all the Japanese parents who have been rogered by this kind of idiocy in the past.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The irony is that the tough Japan work only culture is what is causing the low birth rates in Japan. Japanese birth rates will stay low if the work only culture stays the same. Most Japanese won't want to have children unless they are prosperous/happy and have a good well balanced work/personal life.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have to agree with CrashTestDummy. I live in Tokyo and have Japanese friends, and in the majority of cases they pop out 1-2 kids then dad keeps working and getting home at 11 every night. I am not sure if the father is actually working or just does not want to return home because there is a lot of active night life in Tokyo. I really don't see how these men can mentally and physically handle working 8 am to 11 pm for 20 years. I would rather live in Mozambique than that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

that they wouldn't let me take paternity leave," personally I would just go, stuff the company if they can't organise time off for there staff, there not working for!! if you get sacked, so what, go to a good company they will loose your talents and skills. I was in this position a few times, the company went bust in the end as they didn't look after there staff, and the staff in tern didn't look after or have the co business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was laugh at as a joke while I am the only one in a company who use all may PTO for child support.

Being harrash daily on cannot explain thing properly In Japanese and being move to a lower position for doing so.

My wife have 40 days Vaca plus PTO. Have she ever used it. Yes. like one or two time.. with a huge amount of pressure from the women world in her hospital. Night shift 8 times a month.

Welcome to Japan a living nightmare that nobody dare to speak up.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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