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Dentsu working conditions must be exposed in trial to prevent further overwork deaths

A summary court's decision to have advertising giant Dentsu Inc. face a public trial over the overwork-induced suicide of an employee, instead of summarily trying the company through publicly undisclosed paperwork, is of great significance in raising social momentum for preventing illegal overtime work in Japan.

The Tokyo Summary Court, which is to handle the full-scale trial, needs to get to the bottom of the situation surrounding overtime at the company that resulted in a young employee, Matsuri Takahashi, taking her own life.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office appears to have investigated the case on a decision it made early on that it would summarily indict the company as a corporate body.

In the past, companies had been summarily indicted in five cases investigated by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's task force on countermeasures against overwork, and prosecutors on this case seem to have followed suit.

However, the public has become increasingly critical of excessive work following the Dentsu case. And although the summary court has not explicitly stated why it deemed a summary indictment of Dentsu "inadequate," there is a possibility that the court took into consideration changes in social awareness surrounding issues relating to overwork.

In filing their summary indictment against Dentsu, prosecutors disclosed that a labor-management agreement at the company on overtime was invalid because the union at the company represented less than half of workers at the firm.

The court will likely call into question the company management's inadequate considerations for the working environment at Dentsu.

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