Instead of being showered with congratulatory words, a nurse was belittled and forced to feel isolated and guilty about her pregnancy.

“You must apologize to all your colleagues because of the trouble you are causing for other nurses and staff members,” her supervisor told her.

The head nurse also shut the pregnant woman in a tiny room after a shift. For three hours, the supervisor repeatedly asked: “What will you do? You have no place to return to.”

A company employee who became pregnant suffered greater misery.

She was forced to continue working in the early stages of her pregnancy, even though she was bleeding. She suffered a miscarriage.

Her supervisor called the miscarriage a “divine punishment.”

These two cases were among 530 reported to a nonprofit organization called the Maternity Harassment Taisaku Network (Network against maternity harassment) between July 2014, when the group was established, and October 2019.

The NPO on Nov. 15 released the results of its survey on the harassment of pregnant workers and new mothers.

The organization has received 74 complaints in this year alone.

It asked Hiromi Sugiura, an associate professor of sociology at Saitama Gakuen University’s graduate school who is familiar with maternity harassment issues, to analyze the 238 cases that were received by December 2017.

According to the findings, victims were dismissed, did not receive renewed contracts or were placed at other disadvantages in 54 percent of cases, followed by 37 percent in which psychological abuse was reported.

More than 60 percent of the women were pregnant when they were subjected to maternity harassment, 16 percent were victimized after they returned to work, and 13 percent were harassed during maternity and child care leaves.

“The words ‘maternity harassment’ have become increasingly known, but we still receive so many complaints,” Hiroko Miyashita, representative director of the group, said at a news conference held at the labor ministry on Nov. 15. “Many pathetic reports are coming in.”

Corporations are obliged to take countermeasures against maternity harassment under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

Sugiura noted that many victims contacted the Maternity Harassment Taisaku Network after other parties failed to settle their problems.

“Consultation sections within public agencies or companies and other organizations to which the victims belong do not work properly to help them,” Sugiura said. “A big challenge is how to form a system to support them.”