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Japan gov't employee to get compensation for harassment by anti-harassment official

The building housing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- A former labor ministry employee who developed depression from power harassment inflicted by a superior serving as a power harassment consultation official, has been awarded compensation, it has emerged.

    The employee, aged 29 at the time, reportedly endured repeated verbal attacks and abuse, including being told to "die." The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare intends to formally punish the superior in the near future.

    The ministry informed the man that he would be awarded public employee compensation in a notice dated March 2. The notice recognizes that he developed depression and an anxiety disorder as a result of the senior employee's power harassment.

    According to the man, in April 2017 he was appointed as a director general in charge of formulating and appraising policy, among other duties. Soon after taking up the post, the head of the power harassment consultation staff -- the body of workers dispatched to each of the ministry's bureaus to prevent power harassment -- reportedly said to him, "Perhaps I could beat you up."

    After that, the same superior said abusive things like, "If I told you to die, would you die?" and repeatedly shouted at him in front of other colleagues and ignored him, among other acts. The man, who had months where he worked 130 hours or more in overtime, complained of overwork and power harassment via an external reporting counter, occupational physician and other avenues.

    When there was no improvement in his working environment, he took a leave of absence in December 2018. He was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression, but he was still unable to return to work, and left his position in March 2020.

    Shortly before leaving his job, the man learned about the existence of public employees' compensation, and he applied along with about 300 pages of documents including evidence of power harassment, diagnoses documents, records of overwork and other proof that he compiled.

    Speaking to the Mainichi Shimbun, he said, "Although I've been recognized as eligible for public employees' compensation, they haven't given any indication of when the funds will come through, and instead are just seeking the return of money I received in injury and illness allowances while away from work. I want them to faithfully provide the compensation and work to prevent a recurrence."

    In its capacity as the body in charge of eliminating workplace harassment, the labor ministry is advancing a number of policies to solve the issue. The man, however, criticized the ministry for not being able to resolve its own problems, tearfully saying, "It's a terrible workplace that you couldn't imagine would be the ministry tasked with protecting workers' rights."

    The labor ministry declined to comment on the man's situation, saying, "We cannot comment on individual cases."

    (Japanese original by Hidenori Yazawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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