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By Jenny David
Aug. 13-On the eve of its summer recess, Israel's Knesset (parliament) quickly passed amendments to three existing laws intended to deter gender discrimination in the workplace.
The first amendment, passed unanimously June 28, doubles compensation for victims of gender-based salary discrimination who file claims under Israel's Equal Pay Act or Equal Opportunities in Employment Law and allows the country's labor courts to make awards for non-pecuniary damages. The legislative aim is to ensure gender equality by providing mechanisms to quantify the monetary value of discrimination and to obtain data required for filing a claim.
"The amendment seeks to address these difficulties and to ensure that when there is cause for action, the victim will receive the proper remedy," according to the text of the legislation.
"Wage discrimination is much more than economic damage," said Aliza Lavie, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and the legislation's sponsor. "It is emotional damage, a blow to self-image and to the ability to advance, and it reflects contempt for ability."
"Wage discrimination keeps women at the bottom of the organizational and social hierarchy," Lavie said.
Later in the day, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Sexual Harassment Law that shifts the burden of proof for dismissal of an employee who filed a sexual harassment complaint to the employer. The change, which also covers job applicants, requires the employer to prove that the worker's dismissal within three years of filing a harassment complaint was not retaliatory.
"Reality shows that due to evidentiary difficulty in proving a causal link between dismissal and sexual harassment, even those who dare to complain are often unable to exercise their rights under the law," according to the text of the legislation. "A lack of symmetry in the power of the two sides also makes it hard to submit and prove a claim."
Although the amendment is expected to increase the number of complaints, Lavie said, it "is not intended to harm employers, but to help those who have suffered sexual harassment submit a complaint for the damage caused them."
Separately, the Knesset passed legislation requiring government-owned and publicly traded companies with more than 100 employees to publish salary data broken down by gender.
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