Japanese Officials Raid Dentsu Offices Again as ‘Suicide by Overwork’ Probe Continues

By Patrick Coffee Comment

The “suicide due to overwork” phenomenon is so prevalent in Japan that there’s a name for it: karoshi.

This week marks the second time in less than a month that Japanese Labor Ministry officials have raided the offices of holding company Dentsu as part of an ongoing investigation into the suicide of an employee almost exactly one year ago.

Various reports now claim that Matsuri Takahashi, who worked in digital account management, killed herself last December after working 105 hours of overtime in less than a month.

30 inspectors raided Dentsu’s headquarters in Tokyo today as well as three other branches across Japan. From NHK:

“Monday’s raid came as investigators checking the working conditions at the company found that some employees put in more overtime hours than agreed to in a pact with the labor union.”

Last month, the country’s Labor Standard Inspection Office officially attributed Takahashi’s death to karoshi, and her legal team announced the finding in a subsequent press conference.

The timing of the raids may not be a coincidence: The day of the Takahashi conference, Japan’s labor ministry also released a white paper written to help companies prevent this sort of tragedy. The paper attributes nearly 100 suicides or attempted suicides in 2015 to karoshi.

A manga comic illustrating the karoshi phenomenon by a cartoonist who goes by the username “Sodium” went viral on social media late last month.

This also isn’t the first time such stories have affected Dentsu: in 2000 the company publicly admitted fault in the 1991 suicide of a 24-year old and agreed to pay 168 million yen, or approximately $1.6 million, to the employee’s family.

On November 1 the agency announced that it had established a “Working Environment Reforms Commission” to help ensure compliance with labor laws designed to prevent excessive overtime hours. The release read, “We take labor standards extremely seriously and want to proactively try to remove karoshi from Dentsu’s working culture.”

Dentsu spokespeople have previously told media outlets that they are cooperating completely with the investigation.

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