20 November 2019

Toyota case takes mental health issues to new level

Toyota acknowledges employee suicide case as car giant says it hopes to prevent further cases after authorities ruled on employee suicide.

The suicide of a Toyota engineer followed workplace ill-treatment from being repeatedly ridiculed by his boss. The case comes amid growing awareness of problems with what the Japanese call “power harassment.”

Job-related deaths

Toyota Motor Corp has acknowledged the case after reports of the ruling emerged this week, and said it hopes to prevent such cases and expressed their condolences. A regional labour bureau ruled in September that the 2017 suicide entitled the victim’s family to compensation under a law regarding job-related deaths. Such rulings in Japan are often delayed in being made public. Yoshihide Tachino, the attorney for the victim and his family, said Toyota was responsible for mismanagement for allowing the harassment to continue, saying when a worker suffers psychologically from the traumatic experience of harassment, the suffering continues after leaving work.

Endemic corporate problem

Mr Tachino said the 28-year-old engineer was repeatedly called an idiot by his boss, and told he should die. His name was withheld due to privacy concerns. The worker had earned a master’s degree at the University of Tokyo, and joined Toyota in 2015. The harassment started when he was sent to the company’s headquarters in Toyota city in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan. His boss bullied him with constant insults, ordering him not to take days off and ridiculed his educational background, since his undergraduate degree was from a less elite school, according to an investigation into the case. The engineer told those around him that he could not endure the harassment and would rather die to be freed from suffering. The case is being used to highlight an endemic problem in Japan of a workaholic corporate culture and zealous loyalty to an employer.

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