Toyota employee lodges biggest ever sexual harassment claim

A personal assistant at car maker Toyota has lodged a £104m sexual harassment claim – the biggest in history.

Sayaka Kobayashi filed the claim in New York against the president of Toyota North America, saying he made repeated unwanted sexual advances after she began working for him last summer.

She has demanded £22m in damages for emotional distress and £82m in punitive damages from Toyota and her boss, Hideaki Otaka.

Kobayashi claims Otaka groped her at a Washington hotel as well as in Central Park in New York and tried to pressure her into having an affair with him.

His actions turned her job into a “personal nightmare” and made her feel like feel like “a rabbit being watched by a snake”, until she left her role late in 2005, she claims.

Her lawsuit states that Toyota should have known that Otaka had “a reputation of abusing positions of authority within Toyota Japan by repeatedly engaging in or attempting to engage in extra-marital relationships”.

Kobayashi’s lawyer, Christopher Brennan, said Toyota ignored her complaints against Otaka.

“If it had demonstrated it was going to take her seriously, this would have happened differently,” he said. “She’s not a litigious person, but she’s willing to stand up and be heard because she was brushed aside.”

Toyota said it had a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment but would not comment on the specifics of the case.


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