The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare issued an official administrative notice on bullying on January 30 2012.

The notice uses the term 'power harassment' to refer to bullying, and defines it as consisting of "actions against a victim working within the same workplace, leading to mental or physical damage to the victim or a worsening of the working environment". The definition specifies that such actions are "conducted by using some element of superiority within the workplace, concerning positions or human relationships" that deviates from "the appropriate ambit of day-to-day work". However, this does not necessarily imply that actions are inflicted by an organisational superior; rather, the definition specifically includes "actions involving two colleagues at the same level or actions by a subordinate against his or her supervisor".

The notice gives a number of examples of bullying, including:

  • physical attacks (ie, assaulting someone or committing deliberate actions that cause injury);
  • verbal attacks (ie, threatening or abusing someone);
  • separation from human relationships (ie, isolating, excluding and or refusing to interact with someone);
  • imposition of excessive demands (ie, compelling someone to do something that is obviously unnecessary or impossible, or disturbing his or her day-to-day work);
  • imposition of under-demanding tasks (ie, assigning tasks that present no challenge and are inappropriate to someone's ability and experience (except for a valid reason), or giving someone no work); and
  • invasion of privacy.

If an individual argues that his or her mental health has suffered as a result of bullying, the alleged victim may:

  • file a motion with the Employment Standards Inspection Office for compensation under the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance Scheme; and
  • file suit against the company (for breach of contract) and the alleged perpetrator (in tort).

For further information on this topic please contact Hideki Thurgood Kano at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune by telephone (+81 3 6888 1000), fax (+81 3 6888 3050) or email ([email protected]).