Photo/Illutration People protest a lawmaker’s discriminatory remarks targeting LGBT people on May 30 in Tokyo’s Nagatacho district. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A labor ministry office in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, concluded that a transgender hospital worker’s mental health issues were the result of months of being misgendered by other employees, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.

The Ibaraki Labor Standards Inspection Office ruled in February this year that an assistant nurse developed her mental health problems due to ongoing workplace power harassment and discrimination.

A lawyer representing the assistant nurse said the recognition of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) harassment by administrative bodies is uncommon and that this “means a lot in terms of deterrence.”

According to workplace incident investigation reports from the case, an assistant nurse, 50, was born as a male but has identified as a female from an early age.

She changed her registered gender to female in 2004 and began working at a hospital in the prefecture in 2013.

But hospital staff misgendered the person by calling her a male-like name at work for about six months, according to the documents.

The labor office concluded these remarks and actions constituted power harassment and insulted the assistant nurse for her sexual orientation and gender identity.

The assistant nurse developed mental health issues and subsequently quit her hospital job.

The labor office ruled on Feb. 5 this year that the assistant nurse suffered from mental illness due to the workplace harassment.

Legal revisions to prevent power harassment, which became effective in June 2020, make clear that speech or behavior that insults people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is considered power harassment.

Revealing an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity to other workers without the employee’s consent is also considered power harassment, the legal guidelines state.

In light of that, the labor ministry requires companies to implement preventive measures.

Gon Matsunaka, who heads a group that aims to eradicate this kind of harassment, said bullying, ignoring and outing a person at work are common behaviors that fall under the definition of SOGI harassment.

Unjustifiably transferring or firing a person, along with forcing them to assume a gender identity that they do not identify with, also constitute SOGI harassment.

Making fun of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, having a laugh at the person’s expense and using slurs are also SOGI harassment, Matsunaka said.

Making comments at work such as, “Did you know she is a lesbian?” “She used to be a man!” and “They look like a gay couple and are gross” are also SOGI harassment, Matsunaka said.

People should always act “as if someone in their workplace is a sexual minority,” Matsunaka said.

Matsunaka said “everybody holds unconscious biases” and people at work should “communicate exercising their imagination.”