Photo/IllutrationGlen Wood, former employee of Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., argues that he was a victim of “patahara” after returning from child-rearing leave, in a video posted on Facebook. (From Facebook)

Canadian Glen Wood felt he had no choice but to sue his former company when he believed he was a victim of “patahara,” short for paternity harassment.

Wood, 49, a former employee of Tokyo-based Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., took legal action seeking compensation after he felt he was unfairly treated after taking paternity leave.

“I have received countless messages from people who were also victims of patahara,” Wood told The Asahi Shimbun. “Honoring their feelings I will devote myself to the lawsuit in a responsible manner until the end.”

Wood is one of a growing number of male workers rearing children who felt “bullied” by management after taking child-rearing leave and returning to work.

An increasing number of complainants are filing lawsuits, which go viral on the Internet and are supported by those who underwent similar experiences.

Wood was initially scheduled to speak at Tokyo District Court on July 5. But the court appearance was postponed at the last minute to Oct. 9 because of concern that confusion might occur due to the possible influx of spectators, according to Wood’s lawyer.

VIDEO OF WOOD VIEWED 500,000 TIMES

A video was posted on Facebook in mid-June in which Wood talks about the significance of his legal fight. The footage has been viewed about 500,000 times.

The plaintiff joined the securities company as manager of a sales team for foreign financial institutions in 2012. After his partner delivered a baby boy in 2015, it took almost three months for Wood to be allowed to take child-rearing leave, according to the legal complaint.

But that was just a prologue to his hardships. After returning to work in March 2016 following two months of leave, Wood was not invited to attend important meetings and not assigned to visit clients, resulting in his suffering from depression. He had no choice but to take days off work from January 2017.

Wood talked with reporters about what was occurring at a news conference in October 2017. The company dismissed Wood the following spring.

“You disparaged the personality of your supervisor through repeatedly saying what was not true,” Wood quoted a company official as saying.

LEGAL ACTION ON PATAHARA SPREADING

Patahara is a topic discussed on the Internet as social networking sites are widely used by those who are rearing children.

A symbolic case was the controversy over a former employee for leading chemical maker Kaneka Corp. His wife tweeted in early June, “My husband was told he would be transferred to the Kansai region on the second day of returning to work from his child-rearing leave.”

The message generated more than 40,000 retweets within five days of its posting.

Amid the controversy, Kaneka posted a notice that says, “We have confirmed that there was no problem with what we did.”

Inspired by the grassroots opinions expressed on the Internet, some workers are widely conveying the patahara issue through taking legal action.

A 38-year-old employee of major sporting gear maker Asics Corp. held a news conference titled “patahara trial” on June 28, three weeks after the Kaneka controversy.

Right after returning to work from his child-rearing leave, the man was ordered to be transferred to an affiliated company. He talked with reporters right after he filed a lawsuit with Tokyo District Court.

Mitsuyuki Nakashoji, 53, a former employee of a subsidiary of NEC Corp., filed a lawsuit against the company for dismissing him after he declined to be transferred from Osaka to Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Nakashoji told reporters that it was “equivalent to human rights infringement” for the company to assign him to work in another location. That would prevent Nakashoji from taking care of his son who was suffering from a chronic disease, he said.

The sued companies denied that they had committed patahara and are eager to state their cases in court.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities submitted a written argument during the trial that read, “We (reduced the scope of Wood’s job) and that was the way we gave consideration to the plaintiff who needed to take care of his child.”

An official of Asics said, “We would like to properly counter his argument while clarifying facts during the trial.”

An NEC official said, “We gave the maximum consideration to (the plaintiff) while checking Nakashoji’s wishes and his family’s circumstances.”

SPECIFICATIONS OF HARASSMENT ARE VAGUE

What those companies can cite is the ruling that was handed down by the Supreme Court at the trial in 1986 over a man, who lived with his working wife, small child and aging mother and had been dismissed after declining to be transferred.

“Problems with their family lives (caused by being transferred) are usually something that (workers) should tolerate,” the chief justice said in his remarks.

The district and high courts decided in favor of the worker, but the rulings were overturned at the Supreme Court.

Tsuyoshi Fukai, a lawyer who is knowledgeable on labor issues, said, “The range of companies’ discretion on personnel affairs that the Supreme Court approved was partially based on socially accepted wisdom.

“But such social wisdom is in the transitional period toward focusing on the balance between work and the household.”

The revised law on child-care leave and caregiver leave, which was enacted in 2001, prohibits companies from inflicting hardships on their employees because they took child-rearing leave as well as obliges employers to give consideration to employees who might have difficulties in child-rearing after being transferred.

In some judicial precedents, companies abusing their discretion over personnel-related matters were admonished out of consideration of causing possible trouble to households.

Still, “There are many cases of conflicts between labor and management over assigning employees who are in a child-rearing period,” said Fukai.

The labor ministry specifies what are referred to as disadvantages or consideration in the law. But conflicts still occur because such specifications are not enough to eliminate ambiguities.

Companies tend to argue that their assignments had nothing to do with the child-rearing leave taken by the employee, and that transferring them was necessary for the company’s operation. Therefore, whether an assignment that puts the employee at a disadvantage was made in response to taking child-rearing leave is frequently argued.

The ministry has set a goal of increasing the rate of male employees who take child-rearing leave to 13 percent by 2020, compared with 6 percent in 2018. Thus, the number of conflicts between labor and management over the issue is likely to rise.

Yoshie Komuro, president of Work Life Balance Co., which provides personnel consultant services, focused on the temporary plunge of stock prices of Kaneka in response to the controversy over patahara.

“Nowadays, stock prices of Japanese stock market fluctuate based on the standard of a global (sense of value)," Komuro said. "Now investors react when a company is sued over patahara.

“It is probable that the torrent of criticisms from those who have given up complaining of patahara will rise to the surface.”

(This article was written by Takashi Yoshida and Hisashi Naito.)