Author: Ellen Pinkos Cobb
South Korea has recently enacted, and Japan has recently passed, legislation to prevent workplace bullying. The South Korea bullying law, effective May 29, 2019, creates new employer obligations and provides a legal definition of workplace harassment for the first time. Japan passed revisions to several laws to prevent "pawa hara," or workplace bullying, requiring companies to combat bullying and abuse of power in the workplace.
Under an amendment to the South Korea Labor Standards Act, new employer obligations include prohibiting workplace harassment; promptly conducting an investigation once an employer is notified or made aware of workplace harassment allegations; protecting the victim through measures such as paid leave or changed workplace assignments; taking action such as disciplining the harasser or changing the harasser's workplace; not retaliating against either the victim or the individual who reported the harassment; and specifying in Rules of Employment how an individual can report workplace harassment.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor has published a Workplace Harassment Prevention and Response Manual which sets out criteria to determine conduct that constitutes workplace harassment.
The employer is not obligated to provide its employees with any harassment training or prevention education. Punishment is only provided for one type of violation - criminal punishments in the form of potential imprisonment for three years and a fine of up to KRW 30 million for employers that retaliate against an alleged victim during an investigation.
Japan will require companies to combat bullying and abuse of power in the workplace. Through revisions made to five laws, aspects of workplace harassment will be defined and prohibited for the first time, and companies will be required to take stricter action to prevent forms of workplace harassment. The revisions also encompass other forms of harassment, such as harassment against pregnant women. The legislation, however, does not stipulate what the punishment would be for companies that violate the new requirements.
Sources: MOEL, MOEL published Workplace Harassment Prevention and Response Manual at https://www.moel.go.kr/english/poli/poliNewsnews_view.jsp?idx=1506.
Japan Times Japan bolsters fight against workplace harassment, but laws lack punitive measures at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/29/national/japan-bolsters-fight-workplace-harassment-punitive-measures-elusive/#.XXuo9ShKg2w.
Quartz at Work, Japan finally passed laws to prevent "pawa hara," or workplace bullying at https://qz.com/work/1631097/japan-passes-laws-to-prevent-pawa-hara-workplace-bullying/.
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