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Fired Kyoto University iPS cell institute worker to sue over alleged power harassment

A court in Japan (Getty)

KYOTO -- A former employee of Kyoto University's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, who was dismissed on disciplinary grounds earlier this year, is set to file a lawsuit against the university, claiming she was harassed by a professor and was punished for no reason.

The woman in her 50s is demanding the confirmation of her employment status and about 5.3 million yen ($49,290) in compensation, among other claims. The lawsuit will be filed at the Kyoto District Court as early as July 3.

According to an attorney for the woman, she had worked at the research center in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward since April 2007 in the laboratory of the male professor. But from February 2017, the woman had repeatedly been pressured to resign and was told by the man, "Why don't you quit?" and "What do you intend to do while staying here?" In March 2020, she was dismissed for disciplinary reasons on suspicion of "secretly reading emails containing the professor's classified information."

The woman had never faced any disciplinary issues before the incident. As for the reason for the dismissal, she insists that "it's absolutely unclear which email the university is basing its case on." In May, the woman demanded in writing that the university explain the reason for firing her but she didn't receive a clear reply.

The woman's attorney commented, "The university sacked her after she wouldn't resign despite pressure from the institution. It's an illegal dismissal."

Kyoto University told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We can't comment as we don't know the contents of the lawsuit."

(Japanese original by Kanae Soejima, Kyoto Bureau)

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