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Top court backs punishment of 2 men for sexual harassment comments

34 Comments

Japan's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a high court ruling and backed the suspensions of two male managers at an Osaka aquarium who were punished for making sexual harassment remarks to female employees.

The two men, in their 40s, work for a company that manages Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. In 2012, they were accused of sexual harassment by female employees after they made comments such as asking if they had boyfriends and why they weren't married. One man said his urge for sex increases as he gets older, that certain women visitors to the aquarium were his type, and that his marriage had been sexless, TBS reported.

The company suspended one man for 30 days and the other for 10 days and demoted both to non-managerial positions.

The men appealed to the Osaka District Court, saying the disciplinary action was too severe because they had not been issued a caution, nor had the women complain to them. However, the court ruled their suspensions were in order, calling the remarks highly inappropriate.

In a subsequent appeal, the Osaka High Court ruled that the disciplinary action was too harsh, TBS reported.

In handing down Thursday's ruling, Presiding Judge Seishi Kanetsuki overturned the Osaka High Court decision and deemed that the aquarium's actions were correct and in line with equal employment opportunity laws. "After executives from the aquarium mandated suspensions for violating work place regulations regarding sexual harassment, these two men occupying management positions should surely have understood the gravity of their actions," the judge said.

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34 Comments
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this was actually an interesting court case because the men argued that they should have been given a warning prior to the punishment, which is normal in most sexual harassment cases. And they argued that the woman never complained to them about it. And btw, i think it was just one woman, not women.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Good that they didn't get away with this!

Speaking about chauvinist (not only Japanese) men.

I hope they learned their lesson!!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Our information says it was two women employees.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If those were indeed the extent of the comments, it sounds pretty innocuous. Of course, I don't have the full context of how the comments were said, but based on personal anecdotal evidence, such topics, particularly topics such as why they are single, are quite common conversation material amongst workmates.

Of course, context is everything, and if the comments were said in a lecherous manner with overt harrassing overtones, it's a different story.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Sexual harassment is pervasive and endemic in Japan....and always will be.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I might lawyer up, I'm often asked if I have a girlfriend & why I'm not married.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

my female coworker (near 50, sixless marriage and no kids) always jokes about whether I am gaie. Of course, I say yes to keep her eyes off my junk.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

A great precedent. Let's hope homo japonicus learns a lesson from this.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Japan, a country where a fleet of uniformed female workers, many with university educations, who run errands and pour tea for male bosses.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

work place regulations....they were management...I wonder if they wrote them.

Hongo: Yes I saw it and looked up hs wife's name. It is Tomago Kanetsuki

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nice to see some judicial progress. I did like the excuses made by one of the men......

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Could we also get a suspension of that bunch of oyaji LDP twits who hustled the female.member of the Tokyo assembly with idiotic comments.about her ability to have kids? funny how that was.just quietly swept under the carpet with one fake apology by one douchebag while the others are still " unidentifiable ".

4 ( +5 / -1 )

So they were demoted, and this went to the District Court, the High Court and the Supreme court??

Because two guys asked two women "if they had boyfriends and why they weren’t married." One man said "his urge for sex increases as he gets older" "certain women visitors to the aquarium were his type" "and that his marriage had been sexless"

First, I've worked in japan for 20 years, and heard comments like hundreds of times. And I've heard the same from women. And I've had my stomach, backside and hair stroked by women.

Probably, the two women had a vendetta against the two guys. I wouldn't employ either of them after this. Actually, hearing someone say their marriage is sexless is pretty well like hearing the weather is bad in Japan. This is ridiculous. To think this went through three courts? At least some lawyers got money, and govt workers had something to do with their time.

But it also makes me realise how ridiculous the legal system is, and how nobody needs to feel to bad if they lose a court case. Seems to me it depends on who the judges are. So these brilliant judges (Tell someone your son is a lawyer of judge and just wait for the eeeeeeeeeee ) in one court ruled one way, then the next lot ruled the opposite way, then the next lot agreed with the first lot.

So to me it seems like its just like on Japntoday. It's not so much law and what is right, but comes down to the opinion of the judges on that day.

Judges and lawyers are not my favorite people in case you haven't noticed.

But let this be a warning. Don't anyone if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and don't mention sex, or what kind of people you find attractive. No wonder lots of people just discuss the weather and obento at the water cooler.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Fishy goings on at the Aquarium

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Women's rights run amok is the way I see this. Women won't have genuine equality as long as this kind of thing runs.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One case a winner out of many, and I for one support the decision by the high court. Unfortunately there is a long way to go in educating the public about continuing sexual harassment not only in the work place but any place including public hotels, taxi's, buses, trains, etc. In one case an employee at a hotel had made sexual comments to a married couple, though it was inappropriate the couple let it go with a warning to the employee, the second time the employee did it again and reported the employee to the owner, who in this case is a women but dismissed the action as a verbal caution to the employee. The employee did it again but this time the husband ended up in a minor altercation but was faulted while the employee was provided another warning. The problem stopped with the married couple but the employee recently harassed another woman patron in front of the owner who only giggled it off and the employee well he is still working. I think that since the court did agree with the plaintiff this owner of this business should be set as an example to everyone out there.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Why would they need a warning? They never heard of sekuhara? Yeah, right. Why should the women complain to them? That is not the women's duty. The women are perfectly free to complain to the boss. These boys got schooled, and a good job, too.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Good, harassers should learn they can't get away with this unacceptable behaviour.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

interesting response here, a country where the norms are set decades in the past- i guess that is why so many western writers are pining for those "good old days"....

however- there is no place for those comments in today's society, as for the comments from Peacetrain- well he must be TV material- since i never had the same attention given to me that he apparently had to him.

but I have seen the constant harassment in the workplace given to the ladies

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That is all they said!? Wow! Does not really seem all that offensive. Watch out men. You are not allowed to be men anymore. Just start sitting down to pee. I am all for punishing people for sexual harassment but this case seems pretty lame.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This sounds like guy talk to me and only a weirdo would talk like this in front of female coworkers. They obviously were making these comments in an attempt to solicit some reciprocal reaction from the ladies. Maybe the "certain women visitors to the aquarium were his type" was an exact description of one of the ladies, and that's what pissed them off enough to complain. Maybe not. I would like to hope that this could start a chain reaction of Japanese women starting to hold men to a higher gentlemanly behavior.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

But let this be a warning. Don't anyone if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and don't mention sex, or what kind of people you find attractive. No wonder lots of people just discuss the weather and obento at the water cooler.

Yes. Let it be a warning. When is sex, or lack of, or who your type is (among customers FFS!) ever a good conversation in a workplace? Yes, it happens. Doesnt make is appropriate though.

This sounds like guy talk to me and only a weirdo would talk like this in front of female coworkers.

exactly!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So they were expecting a "warning"? Most people would consider the written sexual harassment policy at the place of employment the only "warning" necessary. And as for the female employees not complaining directly to them, whether they did or didn't doesn't change the guilt of the two managers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You can see why it was back and forth (rejected on appeal, then the appeal rejected).

In the men's favor, according to them the women tolerated it for over a year, and apparently they didn't get warnings, just immediate penalty once it was found out or complained about.

Against the men's favor, it was power harassment (the men were manager, and according to Google Translate of another article the women were temps), harassment was "repeatedly" over a year ("repeatedly" from other sources, not above).

Didn't find it stated anywhere whether the women also indulged in the banter, it seems unlikely it would have gone on for a year with either no back-and-forth (in face of silence from the women), or earlier complaints to upper management or HR from the women. But it could be Japanese thing, or even globally as power politics and caste levels re temps vs management. Temps may just put up with it quietly.

Even so, I find for the women. No great tragedy even if the managers lose their jobs. Somebody's got to walk the plank first, before people wise up.

If the workers were same level, if banter was back-and-forth, if such talk is expected in Japan and also no department-wide warnings were made ('this will no longer be tolerated, last warning, next time it's penalties'), I could see the grounds for appeal. Still leaves the problem of new employees encountering such a workplace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Women's rights run amok is the way I see this. Women won't have genuine equality as long as this kind of thing runs.

Said like a true chauvinist.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Women's rights run amok is the way I see this. Women won't have genuine equality as long as this kind of thing runs.

Define genuine equality? One where they shut up and keep quiet and trust men to look after their best interests by any chance?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yubaru and NatalieB Genuine equality is not ensured by issuing disproportionate punishments to what are ultimately words, half of which are statements of fact and the other half are what can be interpreted as innocuous questions. Equal opportunity is not guaranteed by shafting men who at worst made a few mildly inappropriate comments.

Equality of women has degraded from "giving them a fair chance" or "giving them the qualities to have a fair chance" to "putting them in a glasshouse and killing everything in the way". Ultimately, the latter has significiant social costs, and it even bounces back on the women. If these two women are allowed to stay, who will feel free to freely communicate with them? Not me. Ultimately, all this emphasis on non-offensiveness erodes caramaderie and puts everything on a lowest common denominator footing to the detriment of all. And it will certainly hurt women in the promotion race. Male and Female, both equally capable, but you can talk with one freely and the other you have to watch your tongue. Who would you promote? It's a no-brainer. And if you try to tighten up things so in such situations you de facto must promote the women (or face discrimination charges), you are just introducing inefficiency in the system.

If we really want women in the workplace as equals, we do have to remove glass ceilings, but we also have to adjust indoctrination procedures to produce women that can take a barb like this (as if men don't take barbs in the workplace) without feeling severely damaged.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Yubaru and NatalieB Genuine equality is not ensured by issuing disproportionate punishments to what are ultimately words, half of which are statements of fact and the other half are what can be interpreted as innocuous questions. Equal opportunity is not guaranteed by shafting men who at worst made a few mildly inappropriate comments.

It is the person that the words are directed towards that matter.

If we really want women in the workplace as equals, we do have to remove glass ceilings, but we also have to adjust indoctrination procedures to produce women that can take a barb like this (as if men don't take barbs in the workplace) without feeling severely damaged.

You really dont get it do you? No one, man nor woman should have to face harassment of any type, your attitude comes across to me as if you can justify the actions as a "need" for indoctrination into the work place.

It's wrong, and Japanese men have to realize, women too, that behavior like this is not to be tolerated.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It is the person that the words are directed towards that matter.

Really, so you honestly think it is reasonable for the woman or anyone to feel so harmed by a few words that it is actually proportional to a suspension (which in itself pretty much de facto fries all promotion prospects) or an actual demotion (same)?

It's wrong, and Japanese men have to realize, women too, that behavior like this is not to be tolerated.

It might be wrong, but again, look Words vs Demotion. Would YOU personally feel it is OK for you to be demoted (read: actual permanent harm) because you used some language that might have put a women in a brief moment of discomfort (something transient)?

No one, man nor woman should have to face harassment of any type, your attitude comes across to me as if you can justify the actions as a "need" for indoctrination into the work place.

It is already a stretch to call a few questions about whether they have boyfriends and why they aren't married "harassment", and really says more about the women than the men.

I don't justify the men's actions as a "need" for indoctrination. I say indoctrination for women (aka upbringing) should be adjusted so they won't take offense. Because there is no logical reason to feel real discomfort just at being asked a few questions about boyfriends and marriage. If you feel discomfort, it is because somewhere you had been indoctrinated to do so. Such indoctrination, accidental byproduct or otherwise, must stop.

So its not like I'm even calling for "uparmoring" women. I'm calling for finding the subtle factors that produce such women, and eliminating them - that is, to avoid the accidental or intentional creation of "soft spots" on women. I think that's much more "pro-woman" than a) continuing to produce women with such soft spots, and b) punishing people that bump said soft spots.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Really, so you honestly think it is reasonable for the woman or anyone to feel so harmed by a few words that it is actually proportional to a suspension (which in itself pretty much de facto fries all promotion prospects) or an actual demotion (same)?

I am amazed that you think otherwise. You condone their actions by your defense of them.

It is already a stretch to call a few questions about whether they have boyfriends and why they aren't married "harassment", and really says more about the women than the men.

Why should it matter in the workplace? Ever wonder why the prefix Ms came about? It's no one's damn business really, and besides that there is probably a hell of a lot more to the story as well, kind of hard to find any coverage in any other papers. It's being sensationalized here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kazuaki Shimazaki: you make some good arguments but at the end of the day, the pattern of verbal abuse can create mental distress in co-workers even though it creates camraderie to some extent. Men in most cultures are at the pinnacle of power financially and physically so there are probably few examples of words that would affect them to create mental distress. In my own office, when the natives feel obliged to complain about "gaijin" for example, it irritates the hell out of me and I will typically feel my blood pressure and adrenalin spike then have to take a 30 minute walk to the roof garden to relax.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Yubaru

I am amazed that you think otherwise. You condone their actions by your defense of them.

I do think otherwise, Yubaru. I think the person that wants to say mere words (BTW, freedom of speech is a constitutionally protected right) should be punished needs to demonstrate some harm that will justify it in utilitarianism.

Why should it matter in the workplace?

Because in a workplace, you can't expect everyone to work around you. I think the prefix "Ms" is a good idea, but if people start losing salaries and promotions over not using them, I will scream. It may be no one's business but that's not the same as a justification to fry people whose worst crime is to be slightly more curious.

probably a hell of a lot more to the story as well

If there is, it's not in the story, so I can't evaluate.

@Reckless

mental distress in co-workers even though it creates camraderie to some extent

As I said, there is no really logical reason for a few questions, even if they may be not your business, to create strong mental distress.

Further, the prohibition for producing mental distress taken to the full will ban even jokes. It is hard to think of a joke that does not in some way ride on someone's unpleasant or uncomfortable events.

BTW, while there are more men than women in top jobs, that's not the same as "men" are at the pinnacle of power. Most of us are slaving away in lower posts, just like women.

In my own office, when the natives feel obliged to complain about "gaijin"

First, that's not the same as the scenario portrayed in the article. Interest in your affairs is not the same as hostility. Nevertheless, though it seems you are substantially affected, do you think your case is worth flinging demotions at your "native" colleagues?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I do think otherwise, Yubaru. I think the person that wants to say mere words (BTW, freedom of speech is a constitutionally protected right) should be punished needs to demonstrate some harm that will justify it in utilitarianism.

Whose constitution are you referring to here? Freedom of speech? You are really going out on a limb by calling sexual harassment "freedom of speech". You still condone their actions I see.

Because in a workplace, you can't expect everyone to work around you. I think the prefix "Ms" is a good idea, but if people start losing salaries and promotions over not using them, I will scream. It may be no one's business but that's not the same as a justification to fry people whose worst crime is to be slightly more curious.

Doesnt matter, men and women both should not have to be put in a situation where their private lives become fodder for the work place. Part of the problem here in Japan is that women themselves should be better educated to what is sexual harassment too.

First, that's not the same as the scenario portrayed in the article. Interest in your affairs is not the same as hostility. Nevertheless, though it seems you are substantially affected, do you think your case is worth flinging demotions at your "native" colleagues?

Actually it is, it is harassment, but people wont see it that way here because they dont understand what harassment is.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Kazuaki Shimazaki "

As I said, there is no really logical reason for a few questions, even if they may be not your business, to create strong mental distress.

Further, the prohibition for producing mental distress taken to the full will ban even jokes. It is hard to think of a joke that does not in some way ride on someone's unpleasant or uncomfortable events.

BTW, while there are more men than women in top jobs, that's not the same as "men" are at the pinnacle of power. Most of us are slaving away in lower posts, just like women.

Maybe the employer is not paying Japanese males to make jokes on the clock that offend female and non-Japanese workers.

I agree that most Japanese men suffer under this system, but the reality is still that top leadership is Japanese males who should be careful what they say in public and on the job. Particularly the politicians who set a terrible example.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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