AUTHORITIES in Japan have raided the country’s top advertising agency Dentsu as part of a criminal investigation into the suicide of a 24-year-old employee due to overwork.
The criminal investigation launched Monday follows the government’s recognition in late September that Matsuri Takahashi died of “karoshi,” or death from overwork.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said investigators from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry raided Dentsu Inc.’s Tokyo headquarters and three branch offices on suspicion the company broke the law by forcing Takahashi to engage in chronic overwork.
Investigators suspect widespread illegal overtime at the company.
Dentsu’s head office in the capital was raided by 32 Labor Bureau officials at about 9.30 a.m. Monday in an inspection that lasted several hours.
A total of 88 investigators are involved in the probe, with three Dentsu branches in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto being simultaneously raided, The Asahi Shimbun reported.
The officials were given authorization to seize detailed data on working hours of the employees as well as their labor management records.
“It is true that we are undergoing an investigation. We will be fully cooperating with the investigators,” a Dentsu public relations official said, as quoted by The Asahi Shimbun.
According to the Associated Press, labor officials in September found Takahashi’s overtime pushed past 100 hours a month, way over 80 hours, a threshold for karoshi. But she reportedly was asked to report overtime only below the company’s own monthly limit, which was 70 hours at the time.
“Her workload increased sharply, and her overtime hours shot up dramatically,” the ruling stated, as pointed out by the Asahi Shimbun.
Karoshi causes hundreds of deaths and illnesses every year in Japan despite efforts to curb overwork.
Dentsu has acknowledged at least two other karoshi cases since the 1990s and says it is trying to prevent overwork.
In 2014 and 2015, the company landed in hot water for failing to take necessary measures to improve working practices although the labour offices in Osaka and Tokyo had issued it several warnings.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press