Lawyer: Japan should ban confiscation of foreign workers’ passports

A Filipino worker's lawsuit against her former employer in Japan has put the spotlight on whether employers should be retaining foreign employees' passports.
By: | January 30, 2020

A lawyer has asked the Japan government to ban employers from retaining their foreign employees’ passports after a Filipino worker sued her former employer for doing that.

The 30-year-old woman demanded for her company to return her belongings which included her passport, graduation certificates and other documents after resigning in July 2019. But her employer, a law office, refused on the reason that she would “run away”.

That led to her filing a law suit last week which has put a spotlight on whether employers should be keeping their staff’s important documents such as passports.

There is a government guideline advising against the confiscation of passports, but it is not legally binding.

Shoichi Ibusuki, the lawyer who is representing her, claims it’s a common practice in Japan for employers to keep foreign workers’ passports and urged the government to make it a law to prohibit that.

“Unfortunately, it’s common practice for companies to take the passports of the foreign workers they employ,” he said. “But to take someone’s passport and then force them to work is forced labour, and should not be allowed under Japanese law.”

“I believe this guideline should become law, and also include a penalty clause. We’re hoping that we can use this lawsuit as an opportunity to convince the government to create a law that would ban the confiscation of passports.”

The woman, who chose not to disclose her name, said in a video showed to reporters that she hops this will help to prevent future cases.

“I’m standing up also for others to not be afraid and fight for what is right, so I’m standing not only for myself but for other foreign workers who are in the same situation,” she said.