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Court orders Nagasaki Pref. to pay American ALT $3,800 in sexual harassment suit

Attorney Mika Nakashiki, center, representing an American plaintiff in a sexual harassment damages suit, is seen following a Nagasaki District Court ruling, in the city of Nagasaki, on Jan. 24, 2023. (Mainichi/Takehiro Higuchi)

NAGASAKI -- A district court here on Jan. 24 ordered the Nagasaki Prefectural Government to pay an American woman who used to work at a prefectural high school as an assistant language teacher (ALT) 500,000 yen (roughly $3,800) in damages for failing to take measures to prevent sexual harassment.

    The woman in her 20s had demanded 2 million yen ($15,400) in damages in a suit against the prefectural government, claiming that she suffered emotional distress after being sexually harassed by her fellow ALT and a school vice principal.

    According to the Nagasaki District Court ruling, the woman visited her ALT colleague's home in March 2018 to practice a song to be performed at a high school event. The colleague then picked her up and took her to his bed, before he held her by the shoulders and kissed her.

    Presiding Judge Daigo Furukawa acknowledged that the song practice was related to ALT work, and ruled that the man's conduct constituted "environmental sexual harassment" that infringed on the woman's sexual freedom, caused her emotional distress, made the working environment uncomfortable, and as a result adversely affected her ability to work. The court also recognized that the prefectural government failed to inform ALTs of sexual harassment prevention guidelines and thus violated its obligation to take anti-sexual harassment measures.

    Meanwhile, the court also ruled that the woman was subjected to environmental sexual harassment when a vice principal made a sexual comment to her at an after-party for a high school festival in October 2016, but dismissed her claim for damages stating that the prefectural government's failure to take preventive measures could not be substantiated.

    Plaintiff attorney Mika Nakashiki told reporters following the ruling, "While it's disappointing that the amount of compensation awarded was small, we appreciate the fact that the court recognized sexual harassment and the prefectural government's responsibility."

    An official from the Nagasaki Prefectural Board of Education's high school education division commented, "We'll examine the ruling and consider how to respond."

    (Japanese original by Takehiro Higuchi, Nagasaki Bureau)

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