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Ridiculous reasons for getting canned in Japan

Japan seems like it may be poised for an economic downturn. Moody’s Analytics recently noted that Japan, alongside Singapore, would likely be one of the worst hit economies in Asia. Prior to widespread lockdowns, Japan was already experiencing a significant slowdown.

Now, matters appear much worse. Over 21,000 employees have lost their jobs since January due to the outbreak, with non-regular workers particularly hard-hit. Yet, some estimates suggest that number could jump to over three million unemployed by March 2021. Unsurprisingly, new job openings have recently hit record lows.

There is certainly more than enough uncertainty to go around. Indeed, caution is urged for employees as businesses are likely to feel pinched for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, even in good times, unscrupulous employers are sometimes known to leverage unfair and even bizarre reasoning as they look to hand out pink slips. While definitely not the norm, here are some of the more egregious examples.

Taking Your Paid Time Off

A foreign writer corresponding with The Japan Times experienced a nasty surprise upon picking up his salary. He was informed he was being dismissed.

The reason his manager gave would leave any union member shaking their had. His manager told the writer that he had recently used a lot of paid leave. His absence had disrupted the workplace and demonstrated that he was incapable of doing his job. Yet, he had only used a portion of his allotted vacation time to visit his home country.

While its certainly good office etiquette to plan vacation time with management, the punishment seems a bit harsh in this situation. Unfortunately, paid leave often goes unused in Japan, a country where Buddhist ceremonies are held to mourn unused holidays. The government has actually passed legislation, but the matter seems to persist.

According to The Japan Times editor, employees have a legal right to take their allocated time off. If you or someone you know should happen to have a similar experience, it may very well be worth pushing back. Most importantly, employees should not verbally, or in writing, accept a disputed dismissal. Instead, they should submit a document outlying their refusal of the decision.

Sitting Out of Frame

A 23-year-old new hire was recently told he was out of a job owing to his "bad manners." Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the recruit’s training session was held online rather than in person. However, according to the IT company he was training for, the recruit was repeatedly positioned out of frame.

An HR representative summoned the new-hire to the company headquarters to deliver the bad news. "At times your chin was not visible, other times you were sticking out of the frame," the representative claimed. On another occasion, the junior employee had worn a cardigan over his dress shirt. Another no-no.

Inconveniencing The Humans

In the age of AI, many employees are increasingly concerned about their future career. It seems machine learning algorithms are primed to outperform us humans in nearly every industry. That is, except for hospitality.

Last year a robot hotel at the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park was forced to let nearly half of its automated staff go. As it turns out, the robots were woefully inept at their roles. Digital assistants couldn't answer basic questions like "What time does the theme park open?" and luggage carriers were unable to navigate the hotel. It seems Skynet may not be so scary after all.

Propagating The Human Species

Despite issues with automatons, some businesses seem equally opposed to the human race.

We've covered women's rights issues in Japan before, particularly the problems surrounding maternity leave. In short, offices in Japan are notoriously short-staffed, and employees push themselves hard to ensure smooth operations. Yet, the untimely absence of one office member means uncovered duties, excess overtime, and added stress. As such, the possibility of someone missing a month or more can leave coworkers significantly worried.

As such, female employees often experience not-so-subtle-hints that they needn't stick around if they intend to start a family. Women may also face uncertain consequences to their careers for taking an extended leave, such as demotions and pay cuts. This phenomenon, known as matahara ("maternal harassment"), is increasingly a hot-button issue.

In extreme cases, female employees have been dismissed if they seem likely to take maternal leave. Hiroko Miyashita, a sales representative, experienced just that. After requesting time off to have her second child, she was let go by her employee. Countless mothers have similar experiences.

Fortunately, in recent years there seems to have been some progress. Numerous reports of flagrant matahara have pushed the issue front and center, increasing public awareness. Prime Minister Abe has vowed to support women's interest, including childcare, and prominent politicians are attempting to level the playing field by normalizing paternity leave.

By - Luke Mahoney.