Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Discussions about sexual harassment in Japan first began a decade ago. However, Japan's Equal Employment Opportunity Law did not directly address sexual harassment until it was amended in 1997. Instead, Japanese courts responded with a jurisprudence that has distinctive characteristics regarding the nature of liability for sexual harassment. First, Japanese courts created a doctrine that sexual harassment constitutes a tort because it infringes on women's "personal rights" or on her rights to the dignity of her personality regarding sexuality. Second, Japanese courts held employers liable for sexual harassment by supervisory employees of subordinates. The 1997 amendment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Law strengthened the regulation to a considerable degree. However, it remains to be seen how this provision will influence the civil liability of employers.

This article compares the Japanese law of sexual harassment with U.S. jurisprudence. Part II briefly describes the present situation regarding sexual harassment in Japan. In Part III, the author focuses on the legal bases of liability for sexual harassment under Japanese law and compares them with U.S. law. Lastly, in Part IV the author discusses Japanese law of employer liability for sexual harassment, including the new provision in the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and compares employer liability in Japanese and U.S. law. This article concludes with a summary of the features of Japanese sexual harassment law and comments on future prospects.