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The Histadrut can sue employers that don't let their workers sit down at work even if the labor federation does not represent those workers, the National Labor Court ruled yesterday.

Legally, employers are obliged to provide chairs for their employees. The 2007 law, entitled "the right to work while seated," is designed to protect people who work in retail, including check-out clerks, who have been forced to stand throughout their eight-hour shifts.

It was passed after management at the Superpharm pharmacy chain was found to be forcing cashiers to stand throughout their shifts.

The suit follows a campaign by activists from the Noar Haoved youth movement three years ago. The teens canvassed chain stores and malls and found that many employees could not sit while working, or had been given chairs without backs.

Noar Haoved is a branch of the Histadrut.

Following the campaign, the Histadrut filed suits against 61 businesses at the Tel Aviv District Labor Court, demanding that the court fine them heavily for violating the law. The Histadrut came to an agreement with most of the employers; this generally included giving the employees proper chairs and appointing a manager to make sure the matter was handled.

Twenty-one stores and chains refused to come to an agreement, and the district court ruled that the Histadrut did not have the authority to sue them because it did not represent their employees.

The Histadrut petitioned to the National Labor Court, arguing that the law allowed it to sue employers even if it did not represent their employees.

The stores argued that they provided chairs "when possible" and that violations of the law were not general occurrences.

The court ruled that a large, representative organization such as the Histadrut did indeed have the authority to submit group suits against employers that violate the law, because this was the only way to ensure that the law would be enforced.

The Histadrut can thus proceed with its suits against the 21 stores.