NAGOYA -- A former employee of McDonald's Co. (Japan) who suffered a heart attack from overwork is suing the company for forcing him to resign after putting him on what he says was an unrealistic performance improvement plan.
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In a lawsuit brought to the Nagoya District Court, the former employee is seeking to have his termination nullified, about two years of back pay and 2 million yen for pain and suffering.
According to the suit, dated Oct. 31, and other sources, the former employee suffered an acute heart attack due to overwork in November 2016, while working at a McDonald's in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.
The man subsequently underwent heart surgery, and a doctor wrote a note saying he was to avoid extreme exhaustion for six months. However, McDonald's Japan forced him to resubmit a note that did not have the doctor's recommendation on it.
Following his return to work, there was such a shortage of labor that he was unable to sufficiently take his heart medication. That, combined with consecutive late-night shifts, led to the employee being hospitalized again in August 2017. He underwent another operation, but was told to return to work the next month.
The man was coerced into submitting to a performance improvement plan (PIP) in September 2018, which he said included unrealistic goals such as providing ordered items to customers within 30 seconds of the order being made. His health suffered during this time, with hearing difficulties in one ear and other symptoms. In January 2019, McDonald's Japan demanded that the man sign an agreement of resignation citing his inability to reach his PIP goals. He was diagnosed with major depression in February, but was relentlessly pressed to resign. McDonald's Japan registered him as resigned as of the end of April.
Performance improvement plans, or PIPs, are a name given to a system set up primarily by foreign corporations in Japan to give employees tasks and goals to improve their work performance. There are cases in which the system is used to pressure employees to resign or to terminate their jobs by setting unrealistic goals. In 2012, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the termination of a male reporter at an American news agency's Tokyo bureau after he was placed on a PIP was invalid.
"The company put me on a PIP to make it seem like I voluntarily resigned. My termination was an abuse of power and invalid," the former McDonald's employee said. "I suffered a great deal psychologically from being forced to return to work unreasonably early (after surgery) and as a result being forced to undergo a second operation."
An official with McDonald's Japan's public relations department told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Given the lawsuit, we will refrain from speaking in detail about the case. But we will continue to deal with the case with sincerity in the courtroom."
(Japanese original by Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center)