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