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Death of IT worker after 87 hours of monthly overtime ruled eligible for compensation

Lawyer Hiroshi Kawahito speaks about the recognition of an IT worker's death from overwork as a workplace accident eligible for compensation in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 16, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A labor standards office here has recognized the 2017 death of a 28-year-old IT worker who put in over 87 hours of overtime a month as being caused by overwork, a lawyer for the man's family disclosed on May 16.

The Ikebukuro Labor Standards Inspection Office in Tokyo recognized that the worker put in an average of 87 hours, 45 minutes of overtime work in the two months prior to his death from a brain hemorrhage. It accordingly accepted his death as a workplace accident eligible for compensation. The threshold for ruling a case as death from overwork is 80 hours of overtime per month.

The family's lawyer, Hiroshi Kawahito, disclosed in a news conference that before the worker became subject to the discretionary labor system, which rewards workers based on fixed work hours rather than actual hours spent on the job, he had worked as many as 184 hours of overtime a month.

Between June and July last year, the man posted messages on this Twitter account highlighting his plight. "There are 22 more hours to go until I finish work," one post read. Another stated, "This is the first time since I started to earn a living that I've worked for 36 hours straight."

Kawahito said the man had worked for IT company ReCI Inc., based in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, where he was in charge of developing systems for real estate companies. In July last year he was promoted to the position of team leader and came under the discretionary labor system for specialist workers. His presumed work hours stood at eight per day.

Even before the system was applied, it had been normal for the man to put in long hours. In early July last year, as the company approached a delivery deadline, he worked for 36 hours straight. At the end of the same month, he told his family that he had a headache. He was found collapsed in his apartment in Tokyo in mid-August, and was later confirmed dead. In October his parents applied for recognition of his death as a workplace accident eligible for compensation.

During the news conference, Kawahito pointed out, "The man had worked excessively even before the discretionary labor system was applied to him, but immediately after it was adopted he worked all through the night, and there is a high possibility that the system had a negative effect contributing to his death from overwork."

The man's 58-year-old mother commented, "I'm asking his company to make sure no one else ever falls victim in this way. A person's youth never comes back a second time, so please create time for young people to properly take time off work and refresh themselves."

When approached for comment, a representative of the man's company said, "I'm not aware of the details so I can't say anything."

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Below are translations of some of the comments the man posted on Twitter in 2017:

* June 24, 1:46 a.m.: "I've finally made it home. It gives me such a feeling of security. It's been a 'splendid' 300 hours this month. I'm too sleepy."

* June 26, 10:29 p.m.: "The weariness of my body is out of the ordinary."

* July 4, 12:24 a.m.: "I'm sleepy. What's this business of working from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. the following day?"

* July 4, 8:20 p.m.: "There are 22 more hours to go before I finish work."

* July 5, 6:32 a.m.: "I thought it was getting light outside and it's already 6 a.m. Amen."

* July 6, 1:20 a.m.: "Wow! I've finally finished work!! This is the first time since I started to earn a living that I've worked for 36 hours straight."

(Japanese original by Shunsuke Kamiashi, City News Department)

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