World

Canadian dad sues Japanese company over paternity leave harassment

TOKYO: A Canadian father who alleges that he was bullied and fired by his Japanese employer after he tried to claim paternity leave appeared in a Tokyo court yesterday to pursue his lawsuit.

It is the second paternity leave harassment case to be heard in Japan in recent weeks, casting a spotlight on the issue in a country struggling with one of the world's lowest birth rates.

Mr Glen Wood, 49, a resident of Japan for three decades, was working at brokerage house Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities when his son was born prematurely in October 2015. Mr Wood said he applied for paternity leave before his son was born in Nepal, where his partner was working, seeking to exercise a right guaranteed by Japanese law.

But, he said, the company dragged its feet, and he even submitted a DNA test to prove his relation to his son.

"I knew it was a sort of old-fashioned thinking type of company but I was still surprised, even when it was an emergency and my son was in the ICU (intensive care unit), that it wouldn't let me take paternity leave," he told AFPyesterday.

'TREASON'

"I think it was viewed really as an act of treason for a man to take paternity leave," he added.

It was not until Christmas Day 2015 that he got approval to take leave and see his son.

He returned to work in March 2016 after bringing his baby to Japan but alleged that he was subsequently sidelined at work.

"The bosses suddenly changed and I was shut out of important meetings... word was spread that 'He can't be trusted' or 'You can't count on him.' My life plunged into hell," Mr Wood told the court in Japanese.

He said the treatment contributed to him suffering depression and taking six months of medical leave, and when he returned, the company put him on unpaid leave before firing him.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities has denied harassment and said it supports the rights of employees to take their legally mandated parental leave.

In court, senior company official Akihiro Kiyumo disputed Mr Wood's account, accusing him of acting "arrogantly" and rubbing colleagues the wrong way years before the leave issue.

Mr Kiyumo said: "After the child was born, I made considerations so that he didn't have to stretch himself. People around him also worked hard to cover for him during his leave. Honestly, I still don't understand (the accusations)." - AFP

COURT & CRIME