Japan Panasonic unit to promptly demote sexual harassment offenders

A subsidiary of electronics giant Panasonic Holdings Corp. has decided it will immediately demote employees found to have committed sexual harassment, even after single incidents, in a rare case of a Japanese company seeking to impose severe penalties for such actions.

"Sexual harassment will lead to immediate demotion. Firing the individual may also be considered," Yasuyuki Higuchi, president and CEO of Panasonic Connect Co., which offers business-to-business solutions, said in an interview with Kyodo News on Wednesday. He added that a "severe approach is necessary," as some people do not change their behavior.

The Japan Harassment Association in Osaka praised the move by the Tokyo-based company, which has about 28,500 employees, to revise its guidelines as of October 2022, with its representative director Kaname Murasaki saying that "a large company taking the lead can act as a social deterrent" against sexual harassment.

"Sexual harassment is easier to recognize (in Japan) than superiors being generally abusive to people under their management. With many companies grouping various forms of harassment together, (the move) is well-thought-out, as it captures the specific characteristics of sexual harassment," said Murasaki.

Experts say that while a demotion is the most likely punishment after a long period of sexual harassment or after several cases, it is unusual for companies to immediately demote a worker after a single incident.

Higuchi, a former president of Microsoft Japan Co., said companies worldwide are taking compliance and diversity seriously, and that Japanese companies must follow suit or lose out in the competition for global talent.

Under the revised, stricter guidelines of Panasonic Connect, a compliance committee that is independent of management will handle sexual harassment incidents.

© Kyodo News