Defending Americans’ employment rights in Japan as American policy.

One final post on the IBM Japan project, where the “pre-motion conference” is later this week.

For my overseas readers in Japan, the people who haven’t introduced yourselves along the way, I wonder if you haven’t noticed it too. Our government has taken some baby steps on this issue (if what the Embassy staff tell me is right). But very little has been done in the way of getting express assurances from the Japanese that our rights in employment (labor rights) are going to be respected here on out. The attitude is still that it’s so strange to find an American working in Japan, that they must be temporary, and, in that regard, there is no necessity to honor laws when it comes to an American working in Japan.

“Honor laws” means apply them in situations where there is some cognizable conflict. This is quite different than honoring them when it’s convenient for the employer in Japan. That is no different than law-by-employer (because the rule changes when the employer wants it to.)

Our government policy should be that Americans’ employment rights while in Japan should be respected. No hiding behind some other foreigner, some other American, or layers of multinational bureaucracy–all three very typical Japanese responses. If Japan is truly a sovereign, they should be able to handle basic application of their laws. Not dead letter application, which seems to be the case when it involves non-Japanese.

This is why I am hoping that the extraterritorality of United States discrimination law can be made to provide a remedy, since the Japanese fail to. If an American company is doing business in Japan through its “controlled” affiliate, there is no reason that Americans should have to endure the kind of games that the Japanese play when they are trying to deny something to a non-Japanese.

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