The Japanese Prime Minister has branded the video as “outrageous and unacceptable”.
It is not uncommon for an employee to be sacked or to step down from their role if their actions outside of work could be considered offensive and therefore tarnish a brand’s reputation.
For example, news journalist Alastair Stewart decided to depart from his role at ITV News in 2020 after he admitted to multiple “errors of judgement” in his use of social media, meanwhile in 2019 a supermarket worker was dismissed by Asda for sharing a video on Facebook that showed comedian Billy Connolly mocking religion.
Now it has emerged that the show director of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has been removed from his post.
It comes after footage of Kentaro Kobayashi from the 1990s recently emerged, where he appears to be making jokes about the Holocaust, reported the BBC.
Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic chief, stated that the video ridiculed “painful facts of history”.
The decision comes a day before the event is scheduled to be held.
In the video, Kobayashi, who is a former comedian, performed a sketch in which he and another comedian pretend to be children’s entertainers.
Kobayashi can be seen turning to the other comedian referring to some paper dolls, where he says they are “the ones from that time you said ‘let’s play the Holocaust’”.
‘Outrageous and unacceptable’
After the video emerged, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga branded it as “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Kobayashi has also issued a statement, where he shared that he understood his choice of words were wrong.
He continued: “Entertainment should not make people feel uncomfortable. I understand that my stupid choice of words at that time was wrong, and I regret it.”
How should employers react?
While many employers will seek to discipline employees for offensive behaviour such as this, which could damage the reputation of an organisation, Suzanne Staunton, employment partner at JMW Solicitors, has shared that employers should “exercise caution when seeking to discipline employees for alleged historic behaviour”.
She explained: “First, the evidence may be less cogent, which may make it harder for an employer to conduct an investigation.
“Second, the employer will need to look at the alleged misconduct, place it in its context, and look at all other relevant factors. If for example someone once held bigoted views, but changed those views, and then did a lot of work to promote diversity and inclusion, then it may be difficult for an employer to say that a disciplinary sanction was within the range of reasonable responses.”
Staunton added that at all times an employer should act proportionately, while also keeping in mind the passage of time.