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12/14/2017 14:54 EST | Updated 12/14/2017 14:55 EST

A Canadian Single Dad Is Suing His Japanese Employer For Paternity Harassment

"It's been torture."

Glen Wood

Glen Wood has been living off his savings, forced to dip into money he'd set aside for his son's education as he battles the Japanese company he alleges harassed him for taking paternity leave to the point that he became depressed and had to go on medical leave.

Being a single parent is tough enough even in the best circumstances, Wood told HuffPost Canada, but the nearly three-year saga the Canadian has endured as he fought for his legal right to take paternity leave, and now for his job, all while raising his son, has been "extraordinarily stressful."

"It's awful. It's been torture," Wood, 47, said Thursday from Tokyo. "I've got a lot to think about for the future of my family."

"I've come to the conclusion that I need to fight this battle, and it's important not only for me but for (my son) as well, for his future, to make sure this doesn't happen to him."

​​​​​This week, Wood filed a lawsuit against his employer, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, seeking compensation for damages, confirmation of employment status, and wage payment. In all, he is seeking just under $400,000 CAD.

Glen Wood

Wood, who was born in St. Ann's, Ont., has worked at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Japan since 2012. He says he suffered through years of mistreatment after informing his company he was going to become a father and intended to take paternity leave. Wood's son, Alexander, is two years old.

The damages he is seeking are for his paternity leave application allegedly being repeatedly denied, and because when he returned to work the company allegedly refused to return him to his duties, according to a news release from his legal counsel. But the sum largely consists of back pay Wood alleges is due to him, he said.

The lawsuit is contingent on Wood getting his job back, he said.

"I love my job and want to continue doing it."

Paternity leave harassment is a widespread issue

Japan allows working fathers to take a year of paternity leave, but only three per cent of men actually take it. The Japanese government recently announced it hopes to increase the proportion of men who take paternity leave to 13 per cent by 2020.

Facing a low birthrate and aging population, trying to accommodate parents is an important economic strategy for Japan, according to the World Economic Forum.

AleksandarNakic via Getty Images

But paternity harassment is a widespread problem in Japanese business culture, with 11.6 per cent of men saying they've experienced it firsthand and another 10.8 per cent saying they've witnessed it happen to their colleagues. Over five per cent of men said their applications for paternity leave were outright rejected, according to a recent survey. Of the men who experienced harassment, 65 per cent said they just gave up on taking leave and went back to work.

"The results show a staggering gap between the government's push for a family-friendly working environment and workplace realities, where child-rearing is still widely considered a women's job," the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, who released the survey, said at the time.

In Canada, only one in 10 eligible fathers claim paternity leave benefits, according to Macleans, and those who did only took an average of 13 weeks off work. Fathers who take on caregiving roles face more workplace harassment, according to research from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

"They made my life very difficult"

Japanese corporate culture is so intense that you're expected to "lay down your life" for your job, Wood said. And that — not the fact that he's a single father by choice — is what he suspects rattled Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

"I was a manager, I had responsibilities, and they felt that by me asking to take paternity leave I was putting other things ahead of the company, putting personal things ahead of what needed to be done at work, and that was inexcusable," Wood said.

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Wood's application for paternity leave was rejected several times, he alleges, even after he offered to take a DNA test proving he was his son's father. It was finally approved a few months after his son was born, he said.

When Wood returned to work after three months of leave (during which period he says he was still in contact with the company and preparing for this return), he alleges that the company didn't give him his old job back. Wood was excluded from meetings, recruitment interviews, and travel abroad, according to court documents obtained by Bloomberg. A number of his employers wouldn't even talk to him, Wood alleges.

The company's argument was that they were worried about him and wanted to reduce his workload, Wood alleges, but instead they increased his workload in other ways.

"They made my life very difficult. I was on late-night conference calls... it went on and on," Wood said.

"I think anybody in that circumstance would get sick."

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After "many months" of negotiations over his job, Wood became depressed, according to a press release from his legal counsel. He went on sick leave and, upon his return, after rejecting a demotion and salary cut, Wood was placed on non-paid leave, according to Bloomberg.

Since making his story public after filing a temporary injunction on Oct. 26, Wood says he's received hundreds of emails from people — in Japan, Canada, and abroad — who are going or have gone through similar situations.

Companies are picking on the most vulnerable links, and gambling that being busy with a new family will prevent parents from seeking legal recourse, Wood said.

"You can't just fire people or turn them away from their job because they have a family," Wood said.

"I strongly believe that this is about human rights — the universal human right for people to have children and continue their career."

HuffPost has reached out to the lawyer representing Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities for comment.

According to Wood's legal counsel, the company's court arguments so far have been "outrageous," and include allegations that Wood has a persecution complex. The company has also allegedly insisted that Wood "have the media publish an equal number of articles stating that the situation was simply a misunderstanding," according to a press release.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities has denied the harassment claims, telling the Japan Times that it did the "utmost to enable Mr. Glen's continuation of his employment."

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