Talk of 'vaccination harassment' puts Japan Inc. in a tough spot

Japan Times -- Jul 13
As Japan plows ahead with its COVID-19 inoculation program, more vaccine-hesitant employees are voicing concerns over workplace discrimination and maltreatment stemming from their refusal to get jabs.

The issue of what is dubbed “vaccination harassment” has underscored the dearth of measures companies in Japan can take to require that employees get vaccinated or punish them for their decision to skip the shot.

The situation is markedly different in the U.S., where the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has said companies can legally mandate their employees and new hires to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The only possible exceptions are cases involving disabilities and “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

The term "vaccination harassment," known in Japanese as “wakuhara,” came into the spotlight in Japan after reports emerged of workers complaining of peer pressure and instructions from their bosses to undergo the shots.

Last month, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations released a report outlining the results of its two-day hotline in May catering to vaccine-related inquiries, such as from those feeling discriminated against at work or college for their refusal to get vaccinated.

The hotline handled 208 cases in total, with callers ranging from medical students and health care professionals to staff at nursing homes and company employees. Many cited their fear of side-effects, pre-existing health conditions or tendency to develop allergic reactions as the reason for their vaccine reluctance.

A number of them alleged they were being pressured or essentially coerced by their employers into getting shots, with some saying they were threatened with being furloughed, transferred or fired outright.

There were also nursing students who claimed to have been told they wouldn’t be allowed to take part in clinical practice, and therefore gain credits for the class unless they were vaccinated. Others cited their experience of feeling ostracized by colleagues who are generally hostile toward the unvaccinated, according to the report.

- Japan Times