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June 17—Legislators stepped in to plug a hole in Israel's Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law June 10 after the National Labor Court issued a landmark ruling prohibiting transgender discrimination in the Israeli job market even though “gender identity” is not mentioned in the law.
The actions are part of a trend toward hiring and protecting Israeli minorities and coincided with the June 12 Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, which this year attracted more than 180,000 participants and shut down large parts of the coastal city.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the issue on his Facebook page June 10, saying that “the struggle for every person to be recognized as equal before the law is a long struggle, and there is still a long way to go.”
The court based its ruling on an existing prohibition of discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. The ruling on appeal reversed an earlier decision by the Tel Aviv District Court that found Marina Meshel, a transgender woman, was not fired by the Center for Educational Technology because she is transgender, but because she crossed “acceptable boundaries” in conversations with female students about sexuality and gender identity.
As part of the appeal, the Economy Ministry's Equal Employment Opportunities Commission submitted a position paper on gender-based job discrimination that noted the “sad state” of the LGBT community in general and its transgender members in particular in the Israeli workplace and argued that the courts must shape norms, particularly in LGBT employment, since no legal rulings exist on the matter.
“The question of the place of the LGBT community in Israel's labor market has not yet been addressed in labor court rulings,” EEOC Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair said in a June 10 release. “The statement by the National Labor Court is therefore important to advancing discussion on employment relations in Israel.”
In submitting her bill, Knesset Member Michal Rozin welcomed the National Labor Court's ruling and said the ban on transgender discrimination should be anchored in law.
“In my work I've encountered countless cases of discrimination against transgender people in workplaces,” she said. “This legislation must send a clear message to employees and employers that no one can be discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.”
Unlike previous legislative proposals submitted since 2012, all of which were blocked, the new bill's sponsors said it could succeed in light of the court decision and new support voiced by Israel's president and prime minister. They also noted that the most recent attempt to prohibit transgender discrimination in the workplace failed only because of some legislators' desire for more comprehensive legislation.
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For more information on Israeli HR law and regulation, see the Israel primer.
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