Japan Supreme Court Rejects Father Harassment Allegations

TOKYO (AP) – A Japanese high court on Thursday dismissed an appeal from a former brokerage executive alleging workplace harassment and unlawful dismissal after taking 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, is a symbol of concern about “paternity harassment” or “pata hara.” Wood’s is a rare case, for Japan, of a father taking parental leave. Pregnancy harassment is more common.

Wood started his battle in 2017, claiming he was harassed and forced out of his job after taking parental leave when his son was born in 2015.

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

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

In a 21-page ruling, the Tokyo Supreme Court dismissed the allegations of harassment. It defended the company’s actions as “inevitable”.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley said Thursday’s ruling showed the company’s position had been upheld.

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 said at a press conference at the Ministry of Health and Labor.

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

Japan’s population is shrinking and the birth rate is among the lowest in the world. Despite the outcome of Wood’s case so far, the government has made parental leave a policy priority, allowing for absences of up to 12 months. But the practice does not comply with the law.

The Tokyo District Court ruled against Wood in 2020, saying it found no “reasonable grounds” to believe harassment had occurred. It also criticized Wood for making its case public rather than quietly resolving the dispute with the company, which has made some changes to its parental leave policy since Wood’s resignation.

Yoshitatsu Imaizumi, one of Wood’s lawyers, said the case could still be challenged on a variety of grounds, including Woods’s firing over allegations of harassment. That would potentially violate workers’ right to raise harassment, he said.

Wood, who has appeared in court and at press conferences with his son, said he is not giving up on his fight to ensure men can take parental leave without fear of retaliation.

“Standing up for parental rights is actually a gift I’ve been given. And I’m happy to do that, not just for Japan but for the world,” he said.

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

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