Japan’s High Court rejects paternity harassment claims

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TOKYO – A Japanese high court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by a former brokerage manager alleging workplace harassment and unlawful dismissal after he took parental leave while working at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley.

The case of Glen Wood, a Canadian who has lived in Japan for more than three decades, has come to symbolize concerns about “paternity harassment” or “pata hara”. Wood’s is a rare case, for Japan, of a father seeking parental leave. Maternal bullying is more common.

Wood began his fight in 2017, alleging he was harassed and forced to quit his job after taking parental leave when his son was born in 2015.

The company denied Wood’s request for parental leave. His son was born prematurely and he rushed to see him despite being told by the company to keep working, according to the lawsuit.

When Wood returned to work in 2016, he was relieved of some of his responsibilities and barred from business meetings, according to court testimony. The company fired him in 2018.

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In a 21-page decision, the Tokyo High Court dismissed the harassment allegations. He defended the company’s actions as “inevitable”.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley said Thursday’s decision showed the company’s view had been accepted.

Wood said he would take his case to the Supreme Court, even if it means the legal battle could continue until his son, now 6, is in college.

“Harassment is never an acceptable form of management,” he told a press conference at the Department of Health and Labor.

Wood now runs his own company, which provides transportation management, corporate governance, environmental solutions and other services.

Japan’s population is shrinking and its birth rate is among the lowest in the world. Despite the outcome of the Wood case so far, the government has made parental leave a policy priority, allowing absences of up to 12 months. But the actual practice has fallen short of the law.

The Tokyo District Court ruled against Wood in 2020, saying it failed to find “reasonable grounds” to believe there was harassment. He also criticized Wood for making his case public instead of quietly resolving the dispute with the company, which has made some changes to its parental leave policies since Wood’s firing.

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Yoshitatsu Imaizumi, one of Woods’ attorneys, said the case could still be challenged on a variety of grounds, including Woods’ firing for complaining of harassment. This would potentially violate workers’ rights to report harassment, he said.

Wood, who appeared in court and at press conferences with his son, said he was not giving up his fight for men to be able to take parental leave without fear of reprisal.

“Defending parental rights is actually a gift that I have received. And I’m happy to do that, not just for Japan but for the world,” he said.

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

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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