Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Discrimination in Israeli Employment

Two issues have come to my attention in recent days related to discrimination in the workplace, so I thought others might benefit from considering them as well.

First is an article recently from the Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Judaism/Article.aspx?id=247862. The issue here is whether it is acceptable, legally, morally or otherwise, for companies to discriminate against job candidates because of race (in this case, Arabic).

The second time was a question raised by a reader to a job that appeared on our website, Israemploy. The job was for a religious organization, and specified that the employee must be male.

What is allowed?

In Israel, we have the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law, 1988. This law forms the main legal basis for prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, both in the public and private spheres:

Section 2.(a)

Employers shall not discriminate between their employees or between candidates for employment because of their sexual orientation, because they are parents, because of their age, gender, race, religion, nationality, land of origin, opinion or party, in any of the following:

- hiring;
- working conditions;
- promotion;
- professional training or studies;
- discharge or severance pay;
- benefits and payments provided for employees in connection with their retirement from employment.

Yet, there may be certain exceptions in which discrimination of a sort may be permitted:

a) In relation to women, the most important of these are 'genuine' occupational qualifications, which include:

- Reasons of physiology (not enough physical strength)
- Reasons of decency or privacy
- The provision of personal services promoting welfare or education; and jobs affected by legal/religious restrictions, where customs are such that the duties could not, or could not effectively, be performed by a woman (actually, this can be relevant for men as well – for instance, mikva attendant role)

b) In the case of ethnic minorities the exceptions are:

- Dramatic performances, where the dramatis personae requires a person of a particular racial group.
- Artists or models for advertising purposes, for reasons of authenticity
- Where services are rendered for the welfare of the particular group

So, what does this all mean?

Certainly, in the case of a religious organization where the requirements of the job are such that only one particular gender can fulfill it, this type of limitation is allowed.

And what about the newspaper article example, restricting a race from jobs for non-employment specific reasons (rather nationalistic objectives)? Well, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the equal opportunities law was created in part to specifically restrict such instances.

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