Toyota Chief Faces Sexual Harassment Charge

May 2, 2006 ( - A female employee has filed suit against Toyota Motor North America president and chief executive, Hideaki Otaka, claiming sexual harassment.

The Associated Press reports that Sayaka Kobayashi claims that Otaka manipulated her travel and work schedules so they were repeatedly alone together, had her accompany him to social functions and physically groped her.

Kobayashi said that she emailed a complaint to Toyota’s second highest ranking US official who said he would tell Otaka that Kobayashi’s boyfriend was complaining about the inappropriate behavior in order to keep Otaka from becoming angry with her. The official then sent Kobayashi and email saying she must reconcile it with Otaka herself.

When Kobayashi met with Otaka, he criticized her and said she was ungrateful for his help with her career. Kobayashi was told she could either leave the company or be transferred to her former position.

Kobayashi said she was “perplexed” about being offered the job as Otaka’s assistant in the first place, since she had no experience in secretarial work and only knew Otaka because they worked in the same building, according to the AP.

The lawsuit, which names Toyota as well as Otaka as a defendant, seeks at least $40 million in damages for emotional distress and injury to Kobayashi’s reputation, plus $150 million in punitive damages.