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Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

At Mitsubishi there were many ways I was discriminated. For example, I was placed at a certain employee rank at the time of joining Mitsubishi and by labor union and company policies I was to be given a chance for promotion the very next year. I was not told about that. Imagine my surprise when I found that my colleague Takatani who was to be in same rank as I was, one day showed up with his name tag (yes, we all wore uniforms and nametags) showing different Kanji characters for his rank. I realized that something was wrong. Mitsubishi thought since I could not read Kanji characters so why not use that to break company laws. There were other issues like work assignment discrimination. Anyway, the lawsuit focussed was on the language training discrimination aspect and I will cover that in detail here.

Language Training Discrimination

During my meeting with Kawasaki and Kitahara (President and vice-president of Mitsubishi Electronics) at Memphis, Kawasaki told me that Mitsubishi wanted to treat me exactly as it treats its Japanese employees. Then with a sad voice he informed me that since Japanese employees don't get any language training it would be unfair to them if I got language training. To be frank I was quite moved by that. Imagine Mitsubishi trying to create a fair workplace!

Japanese Employees Get English Language Training

Unfortunately that was a lie. After my arrival at the Computer Works of Mitsubishi, I found out that there many English language classes were offered at the workplace and many of my colleagues availed of those in the evening. The company provided the classrooms, equipment and the instructors for those English language classes. Moreover, Mitsubishi subsidized the major portion of the tuition amount.

Caucasian Male Gets Expensive Japanese Language Training

Bitar, a Caucasian male, who joined Mitsubishi on a one-year contract about a year after I did, was given Japanese language training to an excessive extend. As Bitar informed me later, during the job interview and the job offer phase almost no commitment was made about Japanese language training. However, later the company decided to unilaterally add 6 months of Japanese language training clause to his contract.

Out of those six months, three months were spent training him in the USA before he set his foot in Japan. He was trained in spoken Japanese for hundreds of hours at Berlitz, an expensive language school for businesspeople. The tuition was probably around 40 to 50 dollars per hour.

After he came to work at Mitsubishi, for the first 2-3 months he was again sent to Berlitz at Yokohama for three hours of spoken language training every day during company hours. It meant missing out more than half the working day. Once I had dared to enquire about tuition at Berlitz. I recall it as being 10000 yens for individual lessons or around 8000 yens for group lessons. Companies got around 10 percent discount for volume contract For obvious reasons, non-Caucasian students were not to be seen there.

After that phase was over, Bitar was given another 100 hours to study Japanese language at workplace during working hours. My estimate was that Mitsubishi spent about $30,000 cash for his Japanese language training and about $70,000 if the cost of lost working hours were included.

Mitsubishi Tells Indian Worker to Watch TV

For the first few weeks I couldn't understand why absolutely no help was offered. First I thought that it could be because of their unfamiliarity of working with foreigners. Later I started asking for help like where to go for classes. Shoulders were shrugged with the comment, "I don't know." Once my section chief, trying to be helpful, asked me to watch TV to learn Japanese language like other Indians and Pakistanis do.

After seeing my Caucasian colleague Bitar, studying Japanese language at workplace, I asked Ono, my section head, to allow me some time to practice Kanjis at work. He granted me about an hour each day. However, Sawai, my department head didn't seem to like that. He started detouring by coming near my desk and glancing over what I was doing and after a couple of weeks called me and told me that when Japanese employees go to the USA they don't study English during work hours. My work hour study came to a halt.