Thursday, November 1, 2007


Investigations concerning Sexual Harassment and Bullying 

by Hideki Thurgood Kano
Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

These days many companies located in Japan are involved in accusations by employees concerning their colleagues’ or supervisors’ sexual harassment or bullying. Especially since the amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act came into force on April 1st, 2007, the companies have been required to take necessary steps concerning sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment and bullying may not only damage the mental state of victims, which might lead to the exercise of the Workers Accident Compensation Insurance, but also damage the reputation of the company if the information becomes on the grapevine or is revealed. For any action that the company may take against the harasser and/or the victim, procedures on finding facts are necessary to be conducted in advance. For the purpose of fact-finding, investigations shall be conducted.

Interviews have to be conducted, first regarding the alleged victim, where the company gets to know the detail of the complaints which he/she may have. Second, interviews have to be conducted with the alleged harasser/bully, on any excuses or explanations or rebuttal that he/she may make/give. After this, part of the harasser/ bully’s allegations will be conveyed to the alleged victim where the company will hear the rebuttal of the alleged victim. Then again, what the alleged victim has said is conveyed to the alleged harasser/bully, probably as the company’s final opportunity to listen to him/her.

Surprisingly enough, what the alleged victim states during the interviews is dramatically inconsistent with what the alleged harasser/bully states, in almost all cases, ─especially concerning the most significant part, such as the "existence of sexual intercourse" between a man and a woman.

Therefore, they are very important from a practical viewpoint: (a) the statements by a third party; and (b) some pieces of hard evidence. Statements by those colleagues surrounding one or both of the alleged victim and the alleged harasser/bully may, in some cases, endorse the statements of one of them.

E-mail correspondence is also important. In many cases, the alleged harasser/bully carelessly utilizes the e-mail system of the company which easies the gathering of information in this situation, in contrast with a cautious harasser/bully who utilizes web-mail systems, such as "yahoo" or "hotmail. This type of evidence sometimes becomes decisive.