Claiming workplace harassment is “The Japanese Way” costs Eikaiwa GEOS in NZ NZD 190,000 in court


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something that should raise a smile this Saturday morning.  Somebody working in an administrative position as a NJ in a Japanese company (GEOS, an Eikaiwa!) gets harassed in the workplace (gosh, what a surprise).  Then when taken to court, the company tries to claim this harassment is “The Japanese Way”!  Guess what:  They forgot this ain’t a Japanese courtroom where this actually might wash.  They lose.  Just goes to show you that what are considered working standards in Japan towards NJ (or anybody, really) aren’t something that will pass without sanction in other fellow developed societies.  Attitudes like these will only deter other NJ from working in Japanese companies in future.  Idiots.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


‘Japanese way’ costs $190,000
By Joseph Barratt, Courtesy of CM
New Zealand Herald Sunday May 30, 2010

The boss of a multi-national English language school in Auckland has been awarded $190,000 after an employment tribunal dismissed claims he was used to being treated “the Japanese way”.

David Page was stripped of his job as regional director of GEOS New Zealand at a conference in 2008 and demoted to head of the company’s Auckland language centre.

In April last year, he was fired by email after being given “one last chance” to make the school profitable.

Page launched an unfair dismissal claim against GEOS, which comes under the umbrella of the GEOS Corporation founded by Japanese businessman Tsuneo Kusunoki.

But the company responded by claiming that Page “accepted understanding of the ‘Japanese way’ of doing business”. They went on to say he was used to Kusunoki “ranting”, “berating” and “humiliating” people “so this was nothing new”.

But the Employment Relations Authority said the company’s failings were “fundamental and profound”.

Member Denis Asher said the final warning was “an unscrupulous exploitation of the earlier, unlawful demotion”. He said: “A conclusion that the ‘Japanese way’ already experienced by Mr Page was continuing to be applied is difficult to avoid.”

Page, an Australian, started with the company as general manager for GEOS Gold Coast, Australia, in July 1999.

He moved to Auckland in March 2006, to take on the role of regional director. He was informed of his demotion at a regional conference in Thailand in November 2008.

Four months later he received a final warning that if the Auckland language centre was not in profit by the end of May his employment would be terminated.

Asher also said “an entirely unfair, unilateral process was applied” by the company in the decision to dismiss Page.

Page was awarded $55,000 for loss of income, $21,000 for hurt and humiliation, and $31,849.99 for long service leave. The total amount, including superannuation, under-payment of salary, holiday pay and bonuses came to more than $190,000.

The parent company, GEOS Corporation, went bankrupt in April owing $121 million. The New Zealand branch has been taken over by New Zealand Language Centres Limited. They refused to comment last night.


8 comments on “Claiming workplace harassment is “The Japanese Way” costs Eikaiwa GEOS in NZ NZD 190,000 in court

  • Good point Hoofin. 🙂

    Probably the only thing he will get is a letter, like the letter received by the unpaid workers of Geos and Nova, which says, “We, the new owners of this franchise, only bought the name to take on all the future profits, we have no intention of taking on the financial responsibilities of past actions, like unpaid wages and unpaid court judgements. It’s a one way street: the money comes in to us, it doesn’t go out to you. Thank you for your cooperation.” 😉

  • I must agree. He should have sued for an apology, and a promise never to expand operations to a foreign country unless the company is willing to act responsibly and maturely. Who actually takes seriously that the “Japanese Way” is evidence to argue for or against anything?

    I think its a good time to start rolling out the quotes of those few “gaijin” who write in favor of cultural relativism in Japan Debito.

    — Start the ball rolling? Give us an example.

  • I don’t know, maybe he does get at least something. He is an unsecured judgment creditor of whatever corporation Geos was operating out of in Australia.

    If New Zealand law gives priority to unpaid wages (whether or not reduced to a judgment), he might be in ahead of, say, banks that lent to Geos there.

    Additionally–if NZ tax law allows it–he might be able to write off the judgment as a loss? So he doesn’t get the full amount, but if he has a good year on the tax side, maybe he can deduct what he loses as creditor to Geos.

    I think it’s wonderful that he stood up for himself. I just like to see the underdog also be able to collect it.

  • Tokyo Dan says:

    During my many years here I have come across many ways the Japanese harass or cheat. Especially in business. Refusing to import superior foreign-made skis because “Japanese snow is different” WAS one cheat used years ago. When confronted over their unbelievable actions, the Japanese always try to punk out of the unpleasant situation by saying “That’s” the Japanese way” or “You don’t understand Japanese culture”. The “You don’t understand Japanese culture” is also used against foreigners who feel negatively, about Japan (even ones who’ve been here 30 or 40 years) whereas the “You really know Japan” is used on foreigners who feel positively about Japan, even foreigners who just got here and don’t know anything about Japan.

  • Just to be fair, Japanese use the same tatics on each other, Ive seen it done many times, but Tokyo Dan tells many truths only a long term veteran in Japan would know. The newbie gets lots of praise usually because he/she offers something different that the Japanese are interested in or they are in a position of power and must be manipulated. Once Japanese pick up on the fact you been here long term, they know your used to the old gimmicks and they feel uncomfortable using them on you.

  • So, finally a Japanese company got a taste of the “Foreign way” of doing business. Fair, legal, open and accountable for their actions.

    The more of these suits, legal that is, the less likely Japanese companies will want to open up shop outside Japan…more myopia!

  • Tokyo Dan

    I know exactly what you mean. I recently quit my job at a small toothbrush manufacturer after I realized that many of their practices, as well as refusing to pay overtime to non-managerial full time employees, were outright illegal. I remember trying to reason with one of my co-workers about the illegal conditions and they told me the same kind of thing, that it was how things are done in this company and that it was just how things are done in Japan.

    So I rephrased his answer to me. `So you are saying that it is both the Japanese way and the company way to ignore the laws of this country, OK I fully understand now`

    I submitted my resignation soon after.


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