What is the Japan Association of Occupational Health Law?
Background to the establishment of the JAOHL: Experiences from activities and its necessity
(1) Prior activities
The JAOHL was formed and operated primarily by Kindai University Faculty of Law professor Takenori Mishiba, who was also one of the promoters (as mentioned below). It was launched upon the foundation of the activities and experiences of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Research Society (formed in 2012), which has produced about 800 students of its course including industrial physicians, labor and social security attorneys, public health and hospital nurses, counselors, company human resources staff members, and attorneys.
(2) Necessity of launching the JAOHL
The many problems that arise these days in occupational health settings are difficult for any individual area of specialization to resolve on its own, and require an interdisciplinary response encompassing the field, individuals, and organizations.
A specific example symbolizing this is the recent Kanagawa SR Management and Labor Center case. This case has already given rise to four lawsuits, arising from the same problem. The issue began when the center, which was operated by labor and social security attorneys, recruited office clerks who probably were not a very good fit for the organization. The situation developed into a harassment issue. After the clerks filed a harassment suit, the matter concluded with the center settling the litigation by paying a certain amount of money and taking measures to prevent harassment (which in litigation practice meant that the center admitted to the occurrence of harassment). However, the adversarial relationship continued. The clerks filed a second action on the grounds that the settlement conditions were not being upheld, and their claim was allowed. Soon after, the clerks became depressed. They were ordered by the center to take leave of absence to recuperate. When they sought to return to work once their clinical symptoms improved, submitting written diagnoses of their treating physician, the center-commissioned industrial physician, who had a clinical specialization in psychosomatic medicine, was of the opinion that they were not fit to return to work because of the problems with their personalities and characters. Further, the center refused to allow them to come back to work and took measures to dismiss them because of the expiration of the term of their leave of absence, which led to a third lawsuit from the clerks. In this hearing, the court eventually held that the dismissal measures were illegal and invalid. Later, when the center still did not allow the clerks to return to work despite paying their salary, a lawsuit was filed against the center-commissioned industrial physician on her opinion to the center.
In this case, the defendants included a group of labor and social security attorneys who are meant to be professionals in handling human resource labor issues. Despite the clerks working under a structure with commissioned industrial physicians specializing in psychosomatic medicine and attorneys, the situation did not calm down, and deteriorated instead. This problem may have previously been ended with an encouragement to retire or by dismissal. However, such problems now become legal issues on the grounds of harassment or something similar. The question that arises then is what exactly should have been done?
Now that we would like to initiate research activities that use laws and precedent information as materials to build a foundation for the roles played by industrial physicians and occupational health staff, and for the decision making made by individuals and organizations.
The question that arises then is, why is the law important for occupational health? Two main factors can be suggested:
(1) The law takes the lead in this area (the law provides the guidelines for occupational health work).
(2) Legal dispute tends to occur in this field (since the concept of health is vague and varied, how to assign responsibility for the damage caused to health and other issues can easily become unclear).
Given this, we decided to form the JAOHL with the belief that it is necessary to weave together the knowledge to prevent unfortunate events concerning occupational health and constructively resolve the events that have already taken place by integrating wisdom from the related fields on the foundation of legal knowledge.