Subject: [cwj 42] Dentsu admits fault in worker suicide
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000 14:55:32 -0700
Seq: 42

Saturday, June 24, 2000

Advertising giant Dentsu Inc. admitted Friday that it was
responsible for the 1991 suicide of a 24-year-old employee who
had become depressed due to overwork and agreed to pay the
family about 168 million yen in compensation to settle the case, a
lawyer for the family said.

The settlement, first proposed by the Tokyo High Court in May,
marks the first time a company has accepted blame for the suicide
of an employee apparently caused by depression from overwork.

After agreeing to the compromise, Dentsu Inc. said it deeply
regrets the suicide of Ichiro Oshima and will take measures to
prevent similar deaths by thoroughly monitoring employees'
working and health conditions.

The amount of compensation was based on a 1996 ruling by the
Tokyo District Court, which deemed the firm completely at fault
and ordered it to pay 126 million yen in damages.

The amount was adjusted by adding late penalties and deducting
part of the sum from workers' compensation already paid to
Oshima's parents, Hisamitsu and Yuko, who filed the suit in 1993.

Dentsu has already paid some 111 million yen, and will pay the
remaining 57 million yen by the end of June, sources close to the
case said. The settlement ended a suit filed seven years ago by the
parents against the company, which had refused to acknowledge
any responsibility for Oshima's suicide.

The case went as high as the Supreme Court. Hisamitsu Oshima,
71, said Ichiro's honor had been restored by Dentsu's apology and
compensation, adding that he is satisfied with the outcome.

Hiroshi Kawahito, a lawyer for Oshima, said the settlement was
epoch-making because it fully recognized the claim of the victim's
family and would affect similar pending court cases. Friday's
compromise came after the Supreme Court in March upheld lower
court decisions that Dentsu was responsible for neglecting to
prevent the suicide.

The top court also ruled that the ad agency was more responsible
for the death than the high court had found it to be. It then sent
the case back to the high court to decide on a compensation

After the high court's initial proposal in May, Dentsu said it was
prepared to reconcile with the Oshimas by paying the
compensation, taking into consideration the 1996 district court

Oshima, who joined Dentsu in April 1990, worked past 2 a.m.
about four times per month in 1990, the district court said. He was
involved in planning commercials and events for radio promotions
and had 40 clients.

The frequency of his late stays increased to between five and 10
times every month in 1991, and by August of that year, he worked
similar late hours on two out of every five days. Most of his
overtime shifts lasted until after 6 a.m.

When Oshima went home after these shifts, he basically only
changed clothes and returned to work.

Around July 1991, Oshima began to tell a superior things like, "I
can't sleep and I wake up after only two hours of sleep," and "I
don't know if I am useful as a human being."

Oshima hanged himself in the bathroom of his home in the Tokyo
suburb of Machida on Aug. 27, 1991, after completing work on a
major event for a radio program that he was responsible for.

The district court in 1996 had ruled Ichiro's suicide was caused by
depression due to exhaustion from overwork.

The court also ruled that Dentsu was at fault because it did not
take any concrete measures despite knowing Oshima's health was

It also ruled that his remarks and actions could have been regarded
as signs of an impending suicide attempt. 

Dentsu appealed the district court ruling, claiming that according
to the working hours submitted by Oshima, he had only worked
two to three overtime hours each day.

It also claimed that some things done by workers who stay late
cannot be classified as work and that Oshima killed himself due to
his family environment and personal problems.

In 1997, the high court handed down a ruling that basically
supported the lower court decision but reduced the 120 million yen
awarded the plaintiffs by the district court to 89 million yen.

Both Oshima and Dentsu appealed to the Supreme Court. Oshima's
death was recognized as a work-related accident in August 1998.

The Japan Times: June 24, 2000
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