A precedent-setting ruling by the National Labor Court last week could set the stage for abolishing compulsory retirement in Israel. The decision stated that employers must examine the possibility of continuing to employ any worker who objects to being retired.

This was the first time a court challenged the Retirement Age Law (2004 ), which states in paragraph 4: "The age that, upon being reached, an employee can be required to retire from his (or her ) job due to age is 67 for a man or woman."

The plaintiff, Libby Weinberger, sued Bar-Ilan University for forcing her to retire against her will. Weinberger, who served on the staff of the university's external relations and resource development department, was told in December 2008 that she had to resign her position on reaching age 67. The university refused her request to stay on, citing budgetary constraints.

Weinberger initially took her fight to the Tel Aviv District Labor Court. There she was joined by the Association of Law in the Service of the Elderly, with its managing director, attorney Carmit Shay, representing her, along with the NGOs Ken Lezaken, which fights abuse of the elderly, and Yad Riva, a sister organization of Yad Sarah that gives the elderly legal assistance.

The plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of the case to the National Labor Court, arguing that compulsory retirement violates fundamental rights of human dignity and freedom of occupation. They also claimed that retirement would subject Weinberger to extreme economic hardship due to the meager pension she accumulated.

The court, presided over by Judge Nili Arad, who was joined by judges Ofra Verbner and Sigal Davidow-Motola, said employers must examine each case on its own merits and offer other possibilities like part-time work or other forms of employment.

"The obligation to retire merely upon the employee reaching a certain chronological age, particularly in consideration of the harsh implications of such retirement when imposed against the employee's wishes, seems an arrangement that violates the constitutional right to equality, and presumably the constitutional right of freedom of occupation, too," the panel ruled.

The court ordered the university to pay Weinberger NIS 50,000 in compensation and NIS 7,500 in legal costs. "We didn't find it appropriate to rule on the constitutionality of paragraph 4, but rather to leave this to the High Court of Justice," the ruling stated.