The family of man who hung himself inside a Honda manufacturing plant has filed suit against the automobile company – claiming ‘inhumane’ working conditions led to the worker’s death.
Filed in Ohio‘s Union County Court of Common Pleas, the suit claims Michael Narazaki had been working between 100 and 120 hours a week when he hung himself at the Honda Research and Development facility near Raymond in 2021.
It further states that the engineer – who was just 53 when he died – had worked for the Japanese automaker for over 30 years, and killed himself after managers refused to address his over-the-top work schedule.
The father-of-three’s body was discovered by staffers in his office on October 11 of that year, and quickly raised questions about conditions at the plant – where Narazaki had worked since 1990 after graduating prestigious Carnegie Mellon University.
The lawsuit also contains left notes penned on Honda letterhead reportedly left by a disturbingly devoted Narazaki – who lived in both Hong Kong and Tokyo before pursuing an automotive education in the US – at the time of his death.
Filed in Ohio’s Union County Court of Common Pleas, the suit claims Michael Narazaki had been working between 100 and 120 hours a week when he hung himself at the Honda Research and Development facility near Raymond in 2021. He was just 53
The suit states that Narazaki had worked at the Ohio plant for over 30 years, and hung himself after managers refused to address his over-the-top work schedule. His dead body was found in his office at the facility, and the suit contains writings said to be his suicide notes
In one, the ‘beloved car fanatic’ pleaded for forgiveness for failing to meet bosses’ expectations on an unspecified project, and wrote that he hoped his death would help ease pressures on his fellow coworkers.
‘I’m so sorry I couldn’t get anything right on this project,’ one alleged night aired in the suit, first obtained by The Columbus Dispatch, reportedly read.
‘Maybe this is the one thing I am getting right.’
In another last-ditch scrawling rife with regretful language – the longtime car enthusiast reportedly wrote of his Japanese and American colleagues: ‘They are drowning!’
According to the lawyers representing the Narazaki family – who successfully raised more than $53,000 in the wake of his death – the claim came in response to the culture allegedly instilled by bosses at the sprawling, small-town facility.
It was there, attorneys write, that execs knowingly masked ‘outrageous working hours’ employees had to undergo, and repeatedly ignored complaints about ‘grueling’ overtime from people working on the same unnamed project as Narazaki.
‘The stress, pressure, and exhaustion of Honda’s grueling and inhumane work atmosphere’ created by these varying factors, the suit claims, eventually ‘manifested in [Narazaki’s] death by suicide.’
It also argues that Narazaki had been the primary source of income for his family, which included three kids who had been ages 5, 9, and 11 at the time – the oldest and youngest being girls and the middle child a boy.
His wife, Miki Ushiba, claims she was was forced to move the youngsters across the country following his death so they could be closer to family in Seattle, after being left traumatized by their dad’s sudden death.
The lawsuit seeks damages for wrongful death, emotional distress and unjust enrichment, and argues that the project Narazaki had been working on is projected to exceed $3 billion in profits.
It also argues that Narazaki had been the primary source of income for his family, which includes three kids – two girls who had been aged 5 and 11 at the time of his passing, and a boy aged 9. The suit seeks damages for wrongful death, emotional distress and unjust enrichment
It also claims that the engineers death was a product of the culture preached at Japanese companies, including Honda – which in the US has created policies to address overworking, but is notorious in Japan for having overworked employees.
The suit claims that that in the case of Narazaki, brass at the US plant where he worked for decades failed to adhere to these policies.
‘Honda’s Japanese-style work week hours has merely trickled down to its American-based subsidiaries, where overwork death protections have not been formalized by the government,’ the lawsuit states.
lead attorney Austin LiPuma, of the Cincinnati law firm Freking, Myers & Reul, told the Dispatch: ‘It truly shocks the conscience.’
‘My heart is broken for Michael’s wife, children, and for the community at large that knows how prolific Honda is as an employer. It’s truly shameful.’
In a statment shared over the weekend, Honda – which has 12 manufacturing plants across the country, with the Raymond one actually being the first – refused to comment on the contents of the suit due to it being an ongoing legal metter.
Spokesperson Chris Abbruzzese said: ‘The loss of any associate is difficult, and we want to express our continued deepest sympathies to the Narazaki family for the loss of our associate Michael Narazaki.
‘As this involves a legal matter, we are not able to comment further.’
A memorial shared by relatives to GoFundMe, meanwhile, painted a heartfelt picture of the late carmaker.
‘Michael was a devoted husband, and a doting father to his three children (ages 5, 9, and 11). They warmed his heart and could easily draw out his playfulness.
‘He loved camping trips, biking, and skiing with his family, and was dedicated to spending as much time with them as he was able to despite his intense work schedule.
‘As an able handy man and amateur carpenter, Michael took pride in improving the family home, building a pantry and transforming an open space into a study.
‘One of Michael’s prized possessions was his Honda S2000 “Club Racer” hardtop convertible, which he enjoyed driving through the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina.’
Adding how Narazaki had also been a devoted athlete and musician, the tribute concluded: ‘He was a kind soul. We will deeply miss his all-knowing, sly-yet-shy smile and his quiet presence as husband, father, brother, son, uncle, and friend.
‘Rest in peace, Michael, we love you dearly.’
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