My Performance is Bad? Prove it!

“My boss recently called me into a meeting and gave me 30 days’ notice that I will be terminated. His reason was that I just have ‘poor performance.’ He didn’t really get into detail and didn’t give me a letter or anything. This year has been incredibly stressful for non-work reasons, and I may have done worse than usual, but I didn’t think it was worth being fired for. Can he really fire me?”

 First of all, per Article 22 of the Labor Standards Act, employers must provide a document stating the reason for termination upon request.

According to Japanese labor law, employers can only terminate an employment contract based on “permitted termination.” Anything beside that is an “unfair termination,” and is invalid.

Permitted termination can happen, but the bar is high. The most common situations are:

1) You did something really bad! Maybe you punched someone or robbed a bank.

2) You have been found to be grossly incompetent at your job.

3) The company’s finances are so poor that they need to let you go.

Number 1 is a bit obvious, so we will not touch on that. In this article, we will focus on number 2. Number 3 will be covered in another article.

2) You have been found to be grossly incompetent at your job.

Your boss says that you are so bad at your job that they must fire you. You might even agree to an extent. The point, however, is that your employer HAS TO PROVE this if they are challenged in court for firing you. What this means is that their claims need to be well documented. For example:

A) Your boss says that your performance is poor

They should be able to show proof of things like monitoring and evaluations, and specifically how your performance fails to meet your duties outlined in your contract.

B) Your boss says that your client retention is too poor

They should be able to show numerical data that your student retention is bad – worse than before, and worse than that of your colleagues.

Those are just two examples. Additionally, it is normal for employers to demonstrate attempts to correct poor performance through re-training, warnings, and even applying other disciplinary measures, such as pay cuts or short-term unpaid leave.

If your boss is not prepared to show without a doubt that you are incompetent and beyond help, then they may be attempting to unfairly terminate you.

Please keep in mind that just because laws exist to protect you, they are not magic bullets that will suddenly make your boss reverse course when you recite labor law to them. It is usually up to you to go to court to fight against unfair termination.

It is a long and expensive process, and for limited term contract workers, our experience is that judges award damages, but do not order employers to renew contracts. Therefore, for many it is not worth it.

That is why we urge workers to join the General Union. A labor union can keep you informed of the law and offer advice, but they can also represent you and negotiate to keep your job or reach a better deal. Finally, a workplace with a strong union presence makes it easier to prevent unfair practices before they start in the first place.


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