Power Harassment in the Workplace


A working group established by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) has issued a report that for the first time defines “power harassment” in Japan and makes proposals to both prevent and address the problem.

Although power harassment is not a new claim in Japan, over the last few years there has been a marked increase both in public awareness of the problem and in the number of claims filed with MHLW. In fiscal year 2010, for example, the MHLW received 39,405 inquires to its consultation line with respect to power harassment—a sixfold increase over 2002.

The report defines “power harassment” as any kind of behavior in which a superior takes advantage of his or her position in the workplace to cause co-workers physical pain or emotional distress, whether the person is superior by means of relative work position, physical size, or otherwise. Power harassment includes the actions of a supervisor toward a subordinate, interactions between equal colleagues, and the actions of a subordinate toward a supervisor.

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