A man in his 20s has reached a rare out-of-court settlement with the company he used to work for after a superior outed him, or revealed his sexual orientation or gender identity without his consent, people involved in the case said Saturday.
The firm in Tokyo's Toshima Ward has promised to give him an apology and pay settlement money for causing mental distress, they said, in a development hoped to eliminate discrimination for LGBT people.
Experts on issues related to sexual minorities have pointed out that an out-of-court settlement over damage caused by outing is extremely unusual as legal disputes on the matter are uncommon in Japan, where understanding about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has not yet deepened.
The central government has designated outing as an abuse of power in its guidelines of a law enacted in June that requires firms to take measures against abuse of power, which includes outings and insulting of sexual and gender minority people. But the experts argue the efforts are limited in scope and call for the state to take more explicit actions.
The man told Kyodo News he remembers the "long and painful days" he spent until the out-of-court settlement. "I'm happy if (this case) could provide an opportunity to eliminate outing from society and the workplace," he said.
When entering the company last year, the man revealed his sexual orientation to the firm and said he wanted to disclose it to his colleagues when he was ready to do so, according to a labor union supporting him.
A few months later in summer, a female part-time worker started avoiding him and later quit the job.
The man found out during a drinking party afterward that she had learned from the superior that he was gay. "I thought there was no problem telling that to just one person," the superior told him while laughing.
The man has since been diagnosed with mental illness and eventually took a leave of absence. In June this year, he consulted with the ward office based on its ordinance prohibiting outing.
As a result of negotiations with the man and the labor union, the company admitted to the outing by the superior and apologized to him in late October, and it also recognized responsibility for causing the mental illness.
The company admitted to reaching the settlement, telling Kyodo News, "We will take the matter seriously and make efforts to ensure a similar problem will never happen again."
The man said he plans to file a workers' compensation claim.
Kyodo News has chosen not to disclose the company's name and other details due to the settlement conditions between the two parties.
The issue of outing and its consequences drew attention in Japan in 2015 when a Hitotsubashi University graduate student died after plunging from a university building in an apparent suicide after his romantic interest divulged his sexual orientation to his peers.
About 25 percent of LGBT people in the country have experienced outing, a recent private survey has showed. "Society and our workplaces simply do not understand how outing is painful and harsh for us," said the man, who continues to seek medical treatment.
Yasushi Nagano, a lawyer well-versed in LGBT problems, praised the outcome of the case, saying it is "extremely groundbreaking and a big step forward eliminating discrimination."
Nagano stressed the need for the central and local governments to make efforts to raise people's awareness over outing, while looking to create national legislation aimed at banning discrimination.