Workers' Compensation Laws in Japan


A recent settlement in Japan shows just how different workers compensation laws in Japan are than in the U.S. In 2007, a 25–year–old Mazda car factory worker committed suicide. His parents blamed his death on being chronically overworked and filed a lawsuit against Mazda. According to the parents' lawsuit, their son was ridiculed publicly by his Mazda managers whom accused of him taking needless overtime, among other accusations.

A Recent Case

This most recent second settlement was for $770,000, which in conjuction with the first condolence settlement Mazda paid of about $530,000, brings the total amount paid for their employee's death to just over $1.3 million. In Japanese court, Mazda was found liable for the worker's death because he killed himself as a result of depression from being chronically overworked.

This is very different than the outcome would likely be for a similar case in the U.S. Mazda said after the ruling: "We feel it is extremely regrettable to have lost a precious employee. We offer our condolences from the bottom of our hearts."

Saving Lives from Work Related Stress

Japanese laws have shifted towards workers in these types of cases in recent years. Work–related suicide has been occuring at a high incidence in Japan, where the culture favors a workaholic mentality. In fact, the these types of deaths have become comon enough that a term "karoshi", which means "exhaustion death", has been coined to describe them.

In the fiscal year ending in March 2010, the Japanese government found that there were about 100 karoshi deaths in the country. It also ruled that 63 suicides were caused by overwork. In addition to suicides, some of the chronically overworked suffer stress–related heart attacks and strokes.