Cases of disciplinary action for misconduct in private life (assaultive behavior)
Possibility of Disciplinary Action for Misconduct in Personal Life
Even misconduct in one’s private life can be grounds for disciplinary action if it harms the company’s reputation, delays the company’s work, or otherwise affects the company’s operations. However, the actual nature of the conduct for which disciplinary action may be taken is a matter of delicate judgment.
Determination of the validity of disciplinary dismissal under Article 15 of the Labor Contract Law
In order for a disciplinary dismissal in the private sector to be valid, it must fall under the grounds for disciplinary dismissal in the employment regulations, proper procedures must be followed, and the disciplinary dismissal must be objectively reasonable and reasonable under socially accepted ideas. Although there are a number of court decisions on the criteria for determining the reasonableness and appropriateness of disciplinary dismissals, since the Labor Contract Law came into effect in 2007, such decisions are made in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Contract Law (the provisions of the Labor Contract Law are considered to be a clear statement of the position of previous court precedents).
Article 15 of the Labor Contract Law states: “In cases where an employer may discipline a worker, if such discipline lacks objectively reasonable grounds in light of the nature and manner of the worker’s conduct and other circumstances pertaining to such discipline and is not considered reasonable under socially accepted conventions, such discipline shall be deemed an abuse of that right and shall be invalid.”
Therefore, in addition to the fact that the plaintiff’s conduct falls under the grounds for disciplinary dismissal under the employment regulations, the defendant must also argue and prove that the disciplinary action is objectively reasonable and appropriate under socially accepted norms.
Theories on Disciplinary Dismissal for Misconduct in Personal Life
Regarding the basis for disciplinary rights in private companies, academic theory holds that companies as collective organizations have inherent rights, and contractual rights hold that disciplinary rights arise from a contract with workers (work rules are the aggregate of contracts with workers). However, the court has taken the position that since an enterprise needs to maintain order, employees have a duty to cooperate in maintaining corporate order, and an enterprise may exercise its disciplinary rights to the extent necessary to maintain corporate order. The question is whether it is possible to exercise the right to discipline an employee for misconduct in his/her private life that is not directly related to the maintenance of corporate order, and if so, in what cases such disciplinary action can be taken.
Case of Kansai Electric Power Co. (Posting of leaflets outside working hours)
In the Kansai Electric Power Co. case, the Supreme Court held that “even if a worker’s conduct outside the workplace is unrelated to the performance of his or her duties, it is permissible for the employer to regulate such conduct in order to ensure the maintenance of corporate order and to impose discipline on the worker for this reason, because it may interfere with the smooth operation of the enterprise and has a bearing on corporate order. It is reasonable to conclude that, except in cases such as the one described above, workers should not be subject to employer regulation of conduct outside the workplace that is unrelated to the performance of their duties. (Kansai Electric Power Co. case: September 8, 1983, Labor HANREI No. 415, p. 29; Labor HANREI Hyakusen 8th Edition, Case 58). This case held that a reprimand for distributing leaflets slandering the company outside the workplace outside working hours was valid. The company considered it necessary to exercise its disciplinary authority against the leaflets in order to maintain corporate order.
Odakyu Electric Railway case (molestation on train)
In the original trial of the Odakyu Electric Railway case (Tokyo High Court, December 11, 2003), the court held that “it is naturally recognized that the company can exercise its regulation over the conduct of its employees that seriously affects the company’s social reputation, even if such conduct is done in their private lives and not directly related to the performance of their duties. Regarding a case in which an employee of an electric railway company was convicted of repeated molestation on a train and sentenced to four months in prison and three years of probation, the court concluded that the disciplinary dismissal was not beyond the discretion of the disciplinary authority because “it is objectively recognized that the appellant’s conduct may lead to the deterioration and damage of the honor, trust, and other social reputation of the respondent. The court concluded that the disciplinary dismissal did not exceed the scope of the disciplinary authority’s discretion. Although the Odakyu Electric Railway case is not directly related to the company’s activities because the molestation occurred on a train (on a private railway other than Odakyu) outside of working hours, the court concluded that the molestation by an employee of a railroad company, while the private railway company was working to eradicate molestation, was detrimental to the company’s credibility.
Yokohama Rubber case (Peeping Tom)
In the Yokohama Rubber case, in which the plaintiff, who was fined 2,500 yen for breaking into a stranger’s residence with the intent of peeping, was dismissed for disciplinary action on the grounds that he was a “person who seriously tarnished the company’s image” under the employment regulations, the Supreme Court held that “X’s rightful act in question was committed in his private life, unrelated to the organization and business of the company. X’s right conduct was not related to the company’s organization or business, etc., and the punishment X received was only a fine of 2,500 yen, and X’s position in Y company was not a leading position as a worker in charge of steam heaters, etc. The Supreme Court ruled on July 28, 1970, that the disciplinary action was invalid. Even if an employee of a large corporation is criminally punished for breaking and entering for the purpose of voyeurism, it is considered that there is no direct impact on the maintenance of corporate order, such as harming the credibility of the company or disrupting its business operations.
Criteria for Disciplinary Action for Misconduct in Private Life
Based on these precedents, when claiming the reasonableness of a disciplinary action for misconduct in one’s private life, it is necessary for the company to prove that the employee’s conduct falls into one of the following categories.
1.The employee’s conduct is likely to interfere with the smooth operation of the company (distribution of slanderous or defamatory leaflets about the company).
2. The act is directly related to the performance of his/her duties.
3. The act must have a serious impact on the company’s social reputation (molestation by an employee of a railroad company).
Kuribayashi Sogo Law Office’s Support Services
Although disciplinary dismissal for personal reasons is not totally unacceptable, it will be judged based on the criteria set forth in the above precedents, such as whether the conduct in question interferes with the smooth operation of the company. Whether a disciplinary dismissal on the grounds of arrest for molestation or assault on a train is permissible or not is a case-by-case basis. Please contact our office for advice based on the facts.