Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Toyota's North America president to resign after $190 mil sexual harassment suit

Crisscross - News - Toyota's North America president to resign after $190 mil sexual harassment suit: "Toyota Motor Co said Tuesday that the president and CEO of its North America operations has resigned, following a $190 million sexual harassment suit filed a week ago by a female employee.

The company said in a press release that Hideaki Otaka, 65, was resigning effective Monday. It said Yukitoshi Funo, chairman and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc, has been named chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor North America and Jim Press, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, as Toyota Motor North America's president, effectively immediately.

Press is the first American to serve as president of the North American subsidiary of Japan's Toyota Motor Corp.

Otaka, 65, who had been scheduled to leave his post in June, has voluntarily left earlier, saying his continued tenure was not in the company's interests.

'While I expect to be fully vindicated in the recently filed litigation against Toyota and me, I have regretfully come to the conclusion that my continued service as president would serve as a distraction and ultimately not be in the best interests of the company,' Otaka said in a statement.

On May 1, Sayaka Kobayashi, 42, who is Japanese, filed a $190 million lawsuit in New York, accusing Otaka of harassing her when she worked as his personal assistant, making repeated unwanted sexual advances after she began working for him last summer. She said the conduct continued until winter, when she was involuntarily transferred out of the job.

In the suit, Kobayashi contended that Otaka manipulated her work schedule so that she could be with him, and that she was sexually assaulted by him in Washington DC and in Central Park during the fall of 2005.

She also maintains that she ultimately chose to file the suit because she could no longer remain silent regarding his conduct, but also because of Toyota's obvious disinterest in treat"