WhatsApp Karoshi? Taiwanese Business Woman Dies From Overwork

A flurry of text messages from her employer contributed to the stress that caused the death of a businesswoman in Taiwan. (Screenshot/Chinatimes.com)
A flurry of text messages from her employer contributed to the stress that caused the death of a businesswoman in Taiwan. (Screenshot/Chinatimes.com)

The death of a 40-year-old woman in Taiwan has been linked to a spate of overtime demands made by her employer via WhatsApp, an instant-messaging service.

Known as karoshi in Japanese, sudden death from overwork is usually due to a heart attack or stroke caused by stress. Extreme fatigue increases a person’s chances of dying this way.

The public relations employee fainted outside her office towards the end of last year, and fell into a coma. She died a month later, after being diagnosed with a stroke, the Taipei Times reported.

Relatives took her case to court, and provided the WhatsApp record from her smartphone, showing that her boss had frequently messaged her after 10 p.m.

The employers at first denied responsibility for the death, but did not provide the woman’s work attendance records. They were ordered to provide NT$1.97 million (about $66,000) to the family.

According to Career magazine chief editor Tsang Sheng-yuan, instant messaging apps make many employees susceptible to overworking, the Taipei Times reported. Officials at the Ministry of Labor added that work assigned outside hours counts as overtime, even if sent via text messages, and employers violating the daily limit of extra working hours risk a fine.

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