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Flight attendant sues JAL for 'maternity harassment'

50 Comments

A Japan Airlines flight attendant has filed a lawsuit against the company after she was subjected to "maternity harassment."

Tomoko Jinno, 40, told a news conference Tuesday that after she became pregnant, she requested a transfer to a ground job, but instead, the airline forced her into a temporary leave of absence with no pay for a period of over eight months.

Jinno said that after being forced to leave work and not receive a salary for over eight months, she ran out of money and paying for child-related expenses became next to impossible, Sankei Shimbun reported. She claims her treatment was a breach of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law

Jinno is seeking 3.4 million yen in compensation for the salary she was not paid while on leave as well as consolation for her mental anguish.

Jinno gave birth in April and is still on maternity leave.

The issue of maternity harassment, or "matahara," as it is called in Japanese, has come into the spotlight over the past year. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to make workplace harassment of women who are either pregnant or within the first year of child-rearing an illegal act and therefore punishable by law.

The move comes after a Supreme Court decision last October in the first-ever suit on maternity harassment. That case involved a woman demoted during pregnancy. The plaintiff sued for about 1.7 million yen in compensation plus costs and the court ruled in her favor.

More Japanese women are continuing to work after having children, as a downtrend in wages since the late 1990s has made life harder for single-income families. As of 2010, 46% of working women stayed in their jobs after having their first child, up from 32% in 2001, according to the labor ministry.

At the same time, complaints about harassment and discrimination related to pregnancy and childbirth have risen. In the year to March, the government received 2,085 such complaints from female workers, up 18% from six years ago.

Japan’s laws guarantee women the right to seek less physically demanding roles during pregnancy. They also guarantee 14 weeks of maternity leave surrounding childbirth and allow for childcare leave, which can be used by either parent until their child’s first birthday and can be extended in some cases.

Yet many women find it difficult to take advantage of those policies in the face of traditional expectations for them to focus on housework and child-rearing, as well as their relatively insecure positions in the workforce.

Lawyers say contract workers often fear their employment will not be renewed if they take maternity or childcare leave. Last year, around 56% of women were hired under part-time or temporary contracts, compared with 21% of men working under such arrangements.

© Japan Today/Thomson Reuters

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

50 Comments
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Knowing JAL when it comes to people actually stepping forward on harassment they are rushing to pay this woman a measly fraction of what she is asking and preparing a contract that states upon receiving it she can file no future claims nor discuss the issue further. I hope she sticks to her guns, and she should have sued them for double.

22 ( +25 / -3 )

Scumbags; and the GOVERNMENT talks about the LOW Birthrate ?!?!?! No WONDER women aren't having kids.

34 ( +34 / -0 )

I think this is the reason of low birthrate in this country.

32 ( +32 / -0 )

The move comes after a Supreme Court decision last October in the first-ever suit on maternity harassment

Might be the first "supreme court" case but the first case was in 2011 with the lower Tokyo High court.

http://kotaku.com/5871286/konami-staffer-sues-for-maternity-leave-discrimination-wins

5 ( +5 / -0 )

JAL broke the law. I don't see how they can contest this.

33 ( +34 / -1 )

Once again, Japan being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century

32 ( +34 / -2 )

Good. Win win win. I support all women who wish to take maternity leave.. or even --as this women did-- ask for a change in position to still help the company and help the pregnancy!

22 ( +22 / -0 )

You can just imagine the wrinkly, grizzled old oyajis at the top, looking down upon her in disgust at her request (completely within and specifically noted by law) to seek a less demanding role, before deciding it's perfectly fine for them to force her out of work for 8 months - under the guise of 'temporary leave' - while fully trying to force her to quit and make it her fault.

Despite this being illegal, it's still happening, at such a big company as JAL. All this talk of enacting laws, blah blah blah, it never really seems to amount to anything. This country sickens me sometimes.

21 ( +22 / -1 )

What year is it? 1915 JAL you should be ashamed of yourself, good for the woman hope she see's it through till the end and dosnt get brought of with a brown envelope.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Womenomics at the Flag Carrier.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

But, shouldn't she have complained when she was forced to go on leave? However, I have to agree that the discrimination against women in the workplace in Japan is terrible and more women should speak up about it. My girlfriend is a manager in a publishing company and cops no end of unfair poop from her male manager counterparts.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

" Scumbags; and the GOVERNMENT talks about the LOW Birthrate ?!?!?! No WONDER women aren't having kids."

Spot on...and that's all J-govt does....just talks about it..but as to actually taking meaningful action/ enforcement of the law on this?....don't hold your breath.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Elizabeth Heath: "JAL broke the law. I don't see how they can contest this."

Because the Old Boys protect each other. Just look at recent cases: the woman who returned to work after miscarrying only to be asked, "Are you and your husband having sex again?" She is basically the first woman to publicly win such a case, but was the company or her publicly named and shamed? No! Just last week a woman lost a court case in which her husband admitted to having a long affair, with the judge saying that the man is innocent because it was just "a financial transaction". In the case last week where the pilot was suspended for FORCING a woman to sit in his chair with him and take private photos, was he punished for assault on her? nope -- he was punished for 'not paying attention to the controls'.

They're not going to punish JAL for the 'matahara'. They'll say, at BEST, that "JAL was wrong, but the woman didn't complain until too late," and she'll get little or no recompense. That's if she doesn't take a backroom deal for far less than she's demanding in the suit. I have a former girlfriend and various other friends who have worked for JAL and other airlines in Japan and Asia and they are told to put up with sexual harassment and other harassment in the workplace if they want the job, or to get out (or even be punished if they speak out). This woman is a drop in the bucket, and JAL can count it's lucky stars women don't speak out more or there would be more suits for sure. Hopefully they start, and the judges are human enough to stop protecting these scumbag men in charge and start protecting the future of the nation and upholding morality.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

Hey ladies get out of the cafes and start speaking up if you wanted to be treated properly. Do you actually think the old boys club will do anything to help you without any resistance? Its a well known problem but not so much action. Ive heard a few stories like this, that`s it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It was JAl's way of making room for younger flight attendants. Just take a look at the US carriers.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

She won't win.

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

I suspect some bitter old manager was particularly irritated by this lady as it sounds from the article like she may be a single mother and she is 40, could be some jealousy at work too. There's no reason why she shouldn't file a case a year or two later, often it takes that long to get over the sick of being treated badly. Dinosaur companies like this in Japan and abroad will only change when they are made to pay up. I hope she holds out for everything she claimed. As someone who has used JAL before it irritates me to hear of such nastiness by the company and makes me reluctant to use them again. Wake up JAL.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

JAL upper management engaging in sexual or maternity harassment?? Say it ain't so! (Said no female flight attendant employed by JAL ever)

I wish this woman were suing for 5X what she's asking, accounting for lost wages, personal hardship, and lost wages going forward as she tries to find new work.

And if JAL wants to show that it ISN'T run by scumbag, sekuhara, oyaji d-bags and set a good example to both corporate Japan and the public sector (yes, that means you, LDP), they should step up and offer 10X with a heartfelt apology.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It was JAl's way of making room for younger flight attendants. Just take a look at the US carriers.

That's an excellent point. One could also argue that this woman's treatment in fact amounts to constructive dismissal, if such a legal concept exists in Japan.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I will continue NOT to travel on JAL. It has been my experience since the 1970s to observe JAL's unhealthy culture and most employees' haughty attitude towards its guests. Their superior attitude just grates on my nerves. It doesn't surprise me that management tramples over it employees..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Knowing JAL when it comes to people actually stepping forward on harassment they are rushing to pay this woman a measly fraction of what she is asking and preparing a contract that states upon receiving it she can file no future claims nor discuss the issue further. I hope she sticks to her guns, and she should have sued them for double.

Isn't this the typical content of a "settlement"?

I know many companies really do not like women taking leave (when the problem isn't that they don't like women in anything but the bottommost posts), and to some extent am sympathetic.

Even so, this is particularly artlessly done. I'm sure there are many that want to help JAL on this, but they have to keep it to a zone where said people can help. I don't see how the judges can rule against and keep at least a veneer of principle.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hope she goes all the way and wins.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I hope she goes all the way and wins.

I hope so too, and it will be a smack in the eye for certain (female) posters here who insist that the only way for any woman to achieve true happiness is to be barefoot, pregnant, and totally reliant on men.

It has been my experience since the 1970s to observe JAL's unhealthy culture and most employees' haughty attitude towards its guests.

I absolutely agree, and I have had many encounters with JAL employees at all levels, including as service providers, ESL students, acquaintances, and even as neighbours. They are honestly some of the most unpleasant, arrogant people that I've even had to deal with in my life. Give me ANA (or any LCC for that matter) any day.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Just last week a woman lost a court case in which her husband admitted to having a long affair, with the judge saying that the man is innocent because it was just "a financial transaction".

You are confusing the situation with this, the wife sued the woman, not her husband, and you obfuscate the issue by making it sound like the judge did something wrong by finding the man innocent, the judge found the WOMAN in the case innocent, nothing about the husband. The wife sued the woman, not her husband, if she had sued her husband she would have won because adultery is against the law in Japan. BUT that does not make the woman in the case guilty.

They're not going to punish JAL for the 'matahara'. They'll say, at BEST, that "JAL was wrong, but the woman didn't complain until too late," and she'll get little or no recompense

I'll bet you wrong here. JAL will pay the woman under the table for just about everything she is asking for as JAL does not want the bad press. JAL is not the most stable company in Japan right now, and needs government bailouts to survive. Potential, future, female employees are going to find out about this, if they dont know already, and it will affect the quality of applicants that they get.

You probably wont see any further press on this case either, as it will be handled privately to keep JAL out of the news anymore.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Tomoko Jinno, 40, told a news conference Tuesday that after she became pregnant, she requested a transfer to a ground job, but instead, the airline forced her into a temporary leave of absence with no pay for a period of over eight months.

Disgraceful. And from the Official Airline of the 2020 Olympics no less. Perfect irony actually, since any woman thinking about coming to Japan for the games, and expecting to find a country as progressive as you would expect from "the world's third largest economy", will be shocked at the status of women there.

I hope so too, and it will be a smack in the eye for certain (female) posters here who insist that the only way for any woman to achieve true happiness is to be barefoot, pregnant, and totally reliant on men.

LOL. Bravo, Tessa.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

and expecting to find a country as progressive as you would expect from "the world's third largest economy",

More like what one one expect from the world's largest 3rd world economy!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Precedent, authority and principle.........

Supreme Court decision last October in the first-ever suit on maternity harassment. That case involved a woman demoted during pregnancy. The plaintiff sued for about 1.7 million yen in compensation plus costs and the court ruled in her favor.

JAL has made a mockery of Abe San 'womenomics' pledge........

'To create a society where women can shine has been consistently one of the high-priority issues since my administration was launched in December two years ago, I’d like to support women who made a choice on their ways to live, such as those who decided to stay at home until they finished child-rearing or to work as full-time employees'.............

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to make workplace harassment of women who are either pregnant or within the first year of child-rearing an illegal act and therefore punishable by law.

Oh jeez! Does the MHLW even know Japanese labour law?

雇用の分野における男女の均等な機会及び待遇の確保等に関する法律 Article 9 (3) Employers shall not dismiss or give disadvantageous treatment to women workers by reason of pregnancy, childbirth, or for requesting absence from work

It is clearly illegal! The PROBLEM is that there's no punishment laid out in the law... in other words the laws for protecting women have no teeth.

What frustrates me here is that this woman is clearly in deep financial distress and her company doesn't give a damn about her or her baby. This could easily have ended in tragedy.

The death sentence for whatever misogynist is responsible for this! And no, that's not an over-reaction. Do it once and they'll learn damned fast. One misogynist dead is a small price to pay for women in Japan finally being treated like humans.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

the airline forced her into a temporary leave of absence with no pay for a period of over eight months.

The temporary leave part I can still understand, but no pay? That is disgraceful and unforgivable. Probably illegal too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It was JAl's way of making room for younger flight attendants. Just take a look at the US carriers.

@natsu823. Yes, great point. This dedicated FA most likely has 15+ years of faithful service to JAL. Shame on JAL for kicking her to the curb. So what if she's 40, she's a human being & now a mother.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Massive JAL boycott by females lead by the female Diet members might help. The old boy network can be so infuriating!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Hey ladies get out of the cafes and start speaking up if you wanted to be treated properly. Do you actually think the old boys club will do anything to help you without any resistance? Its a well known problem but not so much action. Ive heard a few stories like this, that`s it.

The old boys network includes the very people who are supposed to be stopping this (remember the recent judge ruling a long term affair as purely a financial transaction and not likely to affect a marriage?). And as for "getting out of cafes and speaking up" - doesnt sound like Disillusioneds girlfriend spends her days plunked on her butt in a cafe. This woman in the article didnt either. The ones plunked in cafes made their choice. These women tried to make theirs but its being taken from them.

I hope so too, and it will be a smack in the eye for certain (female) posters here who insist that the only way for any woman to achieve true happiness is to be barefoot, pregnant, and totally reliant on men.

Whos that Tessa? Ive never seen anyone here say anything like that! If they did I`d be first in line to give them a good smack!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

clamenzaJUN. 17, 2015 - 05:07PM JST Once again, Japan being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century

Try late 20th Century in most of the Western world.

presto345JUN. 17, 2015 - 10:42PM JST The airline forced her into a temporary leave of absence with no pay for a period of over eight months. The temporary leave part I can still understand, but no pay?

You can understand "forced temporary leave"? My wife worked 8 months into her pregnancy with our first child, born in Japan, and didn't leave work until about a week before her due date with our second.

When to leave work during pregnancy is something entirely up to the woman. As an FA she probably would still be able to do her job up to three or four months in. After that a ground assignment would be reasonable. Essentially firing her is illegal in the civilized world.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Every lawsuit results from somebody doing something wrong. What happened is unacceptable. This women had a lot of courage and did the right and smart thing. Simply put pregnancy discrimination and harassment constitute unlawful sexual discrimination period. Go women power.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good on her. Japanese women overall are the true backbone of Japan. They deserve more!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Go women power.

Which further discriminates. Go PEOPLE power against injustices and illegal actions. It's going to take more than just women for things to change!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

JAL is broken the law and deserve to be punished. Good luck to Tomoko Jinno.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Large companies like JAL has specialist human-resources personnel with detailed knowledge of the rules but smaller companies often don’t. One major problem is that employees and employers alike are not always aware of the laws and how they apply in various cases. There is definitely an information gap when it comes to maternity and child-care leave entitlement. Moreover, many women in Japan are part-time or contract workers and may think they aren’t covered by the provision, when in fact they usually are.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Your decision to have the child love. Sorry. Stay home and look after it. I am sure there is a pretty young girl waiting in the wings. Pardon the pun.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Your decision to have the child love. Sorry. Stay home and look after it. I am sure there is a pretty young girl waiting in the wings. Pardon the pun.

Dude what era are you living in?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I hope that they will put strict laws in place. Especially Japan can not afford to have less security for mothers.

But I wouldn't put my money on it. I have heard one foreigner telling me that his wife got fired as soon as she told that she was pregnant. The clue? She was working for the Japanese Ministry of Justice. Go figure.

it will take a long time before companies and even political bodies give a damn about individuals.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

More like what one one expect from the world's largest 3rd world economy!

LOL Good one, Yubaru.

I'm just appalled on how JAL treats its employees, and apparently this isn't an isolated case and has been going on for a while now. It seems like with this old boy's club they can get away with anything. It's too bad since I was planning on booking a flight with them for my summer travels. Looks like ANA will gain a passenger instead.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Steve CrichtonJun. 18, 2015 - 07:05AM JST Your decision to have the child love. Sorry. Stay home and look after it. I am sure there is a pretty young girl waiting in the wings. Pardon the pun.

So men can be single and sleep around having unprotected sex, but women can't? .. because there is a man involved in this somewhere who's not living up to his responsibilities as a father, a man who's a manager who's denying her work, and another man who's so blind to the discrimination he thinks it is funny to jokes about it in a public forum.

... all these men should have their reproductive rights removed... with a pair of rusty scissors.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Michael WerkerJUN. 18, 2015 - 07:55AM JSTI hope that they will put strict laws in place. Especially Japan can not afford to have less security for mothers.

The laws are not being enforced in Japanese companies and a lot of single mothers end up living in poverty, and their children lose half of their identity, and the non-custodial father has to grieve the loss of a child. The culture of divorce in Japan assumes the father will not take any more part in the child's upbringing, even in terms of financial support. Even though the father of the child isn't financially contributing to the children's upbringing, he is not breaking any laws. It's not even expected for him or by society as a whole to to pay any money. There isn't even the obligation. I wonder if the Japanese law-makers will be forced to make radical changes in the law to make it much more family friendly. I think one of the reasons why there is a low birth-rate in Japan is because of the way child custody is settled.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The temporary leave part I can still understand, but no pay? That is disgraceful and unforgivable. Probably illegal too.

No company that I know of pays maternity leave in Japan. Instead, it is covered by employment insurance (雇用保険) at a rate of 2/3 of base salary.

Basically this woman asked for a transfer in order to return to work as soon as possible. The company refused the transfer and told her to utilize maternity and family care leave instead and to return to the company when she could return to being a crew member. This leave is pad at a rate lower than the regular salary and it looks like she simply could not adjust her budget to compensate.

The key legal question here is whether or not the company is required by law to accept her transfer request. I imagine that the company will be arguing that there is no such requirement to transfer her, that she was hired as a flight crew member and not ground staff, and they met all legal requirements by not forcing her to conduct physically demanding flight crew work and allowing her to take extended (paid by the government) maternity and family care leave.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

usual losers wasting their time commenting on this non event...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I myself was victim of such Japanese Company Maternity Leave Melodrama. I consumed my 10 paid leaves over 8 months time period to support my Pregnant Wife and at the end I got a baby and pink slip in my hand. My Japanese company for which I worked extra hours and burn overnight oil, fired me on the basis that I am not fit for work because I consumed all my paid leaves. Ashamed of myself that I worked for such company, I stopped working for any Japanese Company. Such a pathetic work culture in Japanese company. I will suggest Alliens/Gaijin not to work in any Japanese company.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What company was it and what country were you located in? That activity is very clearly illegal in Japan and almost unheard of. In the US, however, it's par for the course.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What's wrong with burning a couple days "sick leave" - "paid leaves" or what have you?

That activity is very clearly illegal in Japan and almost unheard of. In the US, however, it's par for the course.

paid leaves are accrued monthly / annually. Once you "max out" on your leave/sick time, it stops accruing. So use it or lose it. Go fishing, sleep in, go the bar, take out the wife/gf or whatever you do.

You only live once. Too bad robotic salary men and women in this "ethical" work-culture are too tame to shout out against any kind of harassment in the workplace.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Disgraceful treatment of this new mother. She has had a baby & wants to keep working. Last I checked Japan's birth rate was low & there was supposedly an effort to get/keep women working. She has done everything right here & yet JAL is punishing her. No fair on the lady at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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