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Nagoya High Court rules Toyota worker's suicide after power harassment work-related

A joint government building housing the Nagoya High Court is seen in Nagoya's Naka Ward. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

NAGOYA -- The Nagoya High Court on Sept. 16 ruled that the suicide of an employee at Toyota Motor Corp. after he developed depression due to overwork and power harassment by his superior was a work-related death, dismissing the lower court ruling that rejected his family's claims.

    The high court ruled in favor of the widow of the worker, who took his own life in 2010 at age 40. The now 50-year-old wife living in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, had filed the suit demanding that the government revoke the Toyota Labor Standards Inspection Bureau's decision not to recognize her husband's death as work-related. The Nagoya District Court had earlier dismissed her claim.

    According to the complaint, the man joined the global auto giant in 1990, and began to be involved in work to launch the parts production line for a new Prius model in April 2008. He was frequently reprimanded by his boss, and subsequently developed depression in around October 2009. He took his own life in January 2010.

    His family applied for bereaved family compensation and other benefits, claiming that his death was work-related. However, the Toyota Labor Standards Inspection Bureau turned down the claim, saying his condition was not a work-related illness.

    The Nagoya District Court ruled in July 2020 that the psychological burden that the content of his job and his boss's rebukes inflicted on the man "cannot be said to have been intensive enough to cause him to develop a mental disorder." The court also ruled out a causal relationship between his superior's rebukes and his disorders, stating that neither the boss's language or actions denied the man's personality and integrity.

    In the Sept. 16 high court ruling, Presiding Judge Masato Furukubo reexamined the boss's speech and behavior, and stated, "They were loud, intimidating rebukes given to the worker in front of his colleagues, and constituted psychological attacks that outstepped the bounds permissible under social norms."

    In light of the fact that the boss's rebukes had continued repeatedly and frequently since the end of 2008, the presiding judge continued, "The man was subject to psychological loads severe enough for him to develop a mental disorder." The verdict then concluded that "it is appropriate to recognize that there was a reasonable causal relationship between his assignments and his suicide."

    In response to the appeals court ruling, Toyota Motor Corp. released a statement saying, "We should reflect on the fact that we, as a company, failed to listen to the worker and reach out to him. It is regrettable."

    (Japanese original by Tatsuya Michinaga, Nagoya News Department)

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