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Labor office recognizes Dentsu employee's suicide as work-related death

Yukimi Takahashi, sitting next to a framed picture of her deceased daughter Matsuri, speaks at a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 7, 2016. (Mainichi)

The Mita Labor Standards Inspection Office in Tokyo has recognized that the suicide late last year of an employee of major Japanese advertising agency Dentsu Inc. was job-related, as she became depressed due to a sharp increase in overtime work, a lawyer and other sources close to the bereaved family revealed on Oct. 7.

The inspection office concluded that Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance benefits shall be paid to the family of Matsuri Takahashi, who took her own life at the age of 24. She worked about 105 hours of overtime in a single month starting on Oct. 9, 2015 -- more than 2.5 times her overtime of about 40 hours in the previous month.

Takahashi joined Dentsu in April 2015 and started working in online advertising. She was allowed by the company to work overtime "until 10 p.m. at the latest" during her probation period, but her workload drastically increased in October last year, and she jumped to her death from a company condominium on Dec. 25. The labor standard inspection office determined that she became depressed in early November, and eventually needed extreme effort to do her job. The inspection office's decision is dated Sept. 30, 2016.

Hiroshi Kawahito, a lawyer for the bereaved family, said that Dentsu had instructed Takahashi not to record overtime exceeding 70 hours on her monthly "work situation report sheet." Takahashi reported "69.9 hours" and "69.5 hours" of overtime for October and November, respectively.

A Dentsu employee committed suicide due to overwork in 1991, after working for the company for just over a year. His family subsequently sued Dentsu. In 2000, his bereaved family and Dentsu reached an out-of-court settlement, with the advertising giant agreeing to pay compensation and apologize.

Takahashi sent an email to her 53-year-old mother Yukimi on Christmas Day last year, in which she said, "My work and my life are very painful. Thank you (for what you have done for me) until now..." Yukimi hastily called her daughter and told her, "Don't die." Takahashi responded in a weak voice, "No, no." Several hours later, she killed herself.

Takahashi's parents divorced when she was in junior high school. She wanted to make her mother's life easy, and she studied hard to enter the prestigious University of Tokyo and then joined Dentsu. However, comments she posted on social media starting last October became markedly downbeat, including, "My body and mind are in tatters," and "I've lost all feeling except for the wish to sleep."

She also wrote about power harassment by her boss, who she said told her, "The remaining 20 hours of your overtime work are company waste," among other statements.

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