Japan court hears case on ‘paternity harassment’

A worker at major Japanese sportswear maker Asics told a Tokyo court Thursday that he is suing the company to counter the idea that a man’s place is at work and a woman’s is in the home.

The father of two bowed and stood before three judges at a hearing in the Tokyo District Court, which is handling the case on “pata-hara,” or paternity harassment.

He is requesting anonymity for fear of further retribution.

His lawsuit is one of the first of its kind in Japan.

The man, whose sons are now 4 and 1, was initially assigned to a sales-marketing section at Asics, where he rubbed shoulders with athletes. After his first paternity leave, in 2015, he was assigned to a warehouse, according to his lawsuit. After he hurt his shoulder, he was assigned to his current job where he says he is forced to sit and do little.

Asics denies any wrongdoing, arguing it changed the man’s job to best suit what it characterized as a difficult employee.

Reading from his statement, the plaintiff said his employer wrongfully accused him of being uncooperative. He said he was targeted for trying to right a wrong at the company.

The man wants his original job back and 4.4 million yen ($41,000) in damages.

Japanese corporate culture tends to value loyalty to the company and long hours, especially from male employees.

But the country’s declining birthrate has led the government to consider making parental leave mandatory for both parents to try to counter that tendency.

Data show very few Japanese fathers take paternity leave, although the law provides for that option.

The plaintiff told his employers he wanted to spend time with his family and not work much overtime.

After the brief session, he said outside the courtroom that he believes children have the right to be raised by both parents. Demanding that employees sacrifice family time is an outdated expectation.

Naoto Sasayama, the lawyer for the father, said the evidence will prove his client is in the right.

“We want to give hope to all those dads who want to take paternity leave,” said Sasayama.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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