Toyota North America CEO Sued

His former assistant files a sexual harassment suit.
Publish date:

Updated from 4:40 p.m. EDT

The assistant to the president and chief executive of


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North America division filed a lawsuit late Monday accusing her boss of pressuring her into an affair and sexually assaulting her.

Sayaka Kobayashi, 42, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Hideaki Otaka, Toyota Motor and Toyota North America in the New York Supreme Court. It seeks an award of $190 million in punitive and other damages

In the complaint, Kobayashi alleges that Otaka, who is married, made repeated unwanted sexual advances toward her after she began working for him last summer.

She accuses him of manipulating her schedule so they had time alone together, and physically groping her at a Washington, D.C., hotel and in Central Park. She said the behavior continued until winter, when she was transferred out of the job after she reported the harassment to Toyota officials.

"The suit raises questions as to why the company did not take steps to protect Kobayashi -- or conduct an investigation -- when first notified of the alleged misconduct last November," said a press release from Kobayashi's law firm, Ziegler, Ziegler & Associates.

"Toyota has a 'zero tolerance' policy towards sexual harassment at all levels within the company and takes any allegations of this nature very seriously," the company said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. "Consistent with our policy of not discussing pending litigation, the company will refrain from any further public comment on this matter."

The Wall Street Journal

reported Tuesday that Otaka said he is leaving his post later this year to become an in-house auditor at Toyota affiliate automaker Daihatsu Motor in Japan. He told the newspaper that his departure from the U.S. has nothing to do with the lawsuit and that Kobayashi was promoted several months ago to a different position at Toyota North America. He said she has been on medical leave in recent weeks, the



Before assuming his current position almost a year ago, Otaka, 65, was president and chief executive of Delphys, a Toyota-affiliated marketing and advertising company.

Toyota on Tuesday posted an 8.5% increase in U.S. vehicle sales in April to 219,965 units as the automaker continued to take market share from its U.S.-based competitors. Its shares closed up $3.65, or 3.1%, to $121.03.