A company’s repeated workplace distribution of documents containing expressions constituting hate speech has been ruled unlawful. The Osaka High Court ordered the firm to pay damages in a lawsuit filed by an employee who is a Korean resident in Japan.
The defendant, Osaka Prefecture-based real estate firm Fuji Corp., did not stop handing out the written materials after losing its battle in the first ruling on the case. In response to this, the high court upped the amount of compensation, and ordered that the documents’ distribution be halted.
From around 2013, the firm began distributing magazine articles and internet posts contemptuous of people from South Korea and China — including calling them “liars.” Although the woman called on the company to stop the practice, her request apparently went unheeded.
The high court ruling recognized that the documents were consistent with inappropriate discriminatory words and actions as outlined in the hate speech elimination law. Furthermore, it acknowledged that the company had contravened its legal obligation to pay consideration in creating a working environment that does not propagate discriminatory ideas. It concluded that the material impinged on the woman’s “personal interests” affecting her self-esteem.
Discriminatory words and actions based on people’s country of origin, race or ethnicity are absolutely unacceptable. A judicial decision to put a stop to them is only natural.
Some of the documents were disseminated by the company’s founder and chairman, with orders to distribute them to all employees. If distribution was ordered by someone in a top managerial position with a high level of authority, it would be difficult for employees to resist.
What cannot be overlooked is that this problem was caused by a major firm listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. As such, the company has a great deal of societal influence demanding a high ethical standard.
Last year, the Japanese government formulated its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. It urges businesses to protect the rights of workers including foreign technical intern trainees, and to take appropriate responses to online hate speech.
The Financial Services Agency and Tokyo Stock Exchange, Inc. this year included a passage on respecting human rights in Japan’s Corporate Governance Code, which listed companies are called on to follow.
Efforts to address environmental and societal issues are being emphasized in corporate management appraisals, and are becoming a standard for investment and lending. Among Japanese banks, too, there are moves to clearly make environmental protection and respect for human rights a standard.
Firms bearing societal responsibilities must not engage in activities that fuel discrimination. Business managers are called on to be aware of this issue, and work toward rooting out discrimination.