Ex-Maccabi Coach Cries Foul Over Firing After Harassment

A former employee of the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club claims she was fired from her job as a junior team coach after she filed a complaint with the police against another employee for committing obscene acts against her.

In the suit submitted to the Tel Aviv labor court this week, the former employee alleges, via her attorney Gila Yudaikin, that she was fired from her job in August 2004, by telephone, just before the start of the soccer season and was denied her rights, while the employee who allegedly harassed her - who was later sentenced to two years in prison for committing an obscene act by force - continued to work for the club.

"The conduct of the defendant [i.e. the soccer club] in connection with the plaintiff's dismissal from her job involves extreme lack of candor, false pretenses, and serious and absolute deception and discrimination against the plaintiff at her workplace, all because of her being a woman in the workplace, causing her, against her will, to experience a regrettable and traumatic event whose impact is still evident in her today," reads the suit.

Sources at Maccabi Tel Aviv note that the incident occurred prior to the club's change of ownership and administration, adding that the present administration was not involved and did not know either the female employee or her alleged harasser.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was employed by the club for about a year and coached three children's teams.

During this time, she earned high praise for her performance and led one of the teams to win its league championship. The lawsuit also notes that, at a coaches' meeting just prior to the next year of activity, she was named as a coach for the coming year.

In the course of her work, says the lawsuit, she met the other employee, became friendly with him and even moved in with him in a rented apartment. At the time the female coach was in a relationship with another woman.

According to the lawsuit, the male employee committed two obscene acts on her by force.

In June 2004, says the lawsuit, the female coach filed a complaint with the police. Subsequently, the club decided to sever its connection with her.

The lawsuit states that the female coach called the club a number of times in order to find out which team she would be coaching in the upcoming school year, but got no response until her supervisor finally told her over the phone that she was fired. This occurred without any hearing prior to dismissal.

At the same time, says the lawsuit, her alleged harasser continued to be employed without being in any danger of dismissal, even though he was the subject of a police investigation. Due to the proximity of her dismissal to the opening of the soccer season, the plaintiff was unable to secure employment for a year.

The female coach is seeking compensation for her dismissal, to redeem her vacation and sick days, compensation for not being given any prior warning, compensation for not being able to find an alternative place of work due to the proximity of the dismissal to the opening of the season, and compensation for mental anguish.

"This is a workplace and an organization that is given a lot of media coverage," says attorney Yudaikin, of the Yudaikin-Cohen law firm. "From such a place, one expects fair and nondiscriminatory conduct. Turning one's back on a woman in distress in such a crude way when she is being sexually harassed, by a man who is eventually convicted and sent to prison while she is fired, is unacceptable. Such conduct needs to be eradicated."

The Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club issued the following response: "The episode occurred years before the club was transferred to the ownership of Alex Shnaider and placed under the new administration he appointed. The present administration of Maccabi Tel Aviv does not know the plaintiff or the alleged harasser, and did not make any decision regarding them. The lawsuit has not yet been seen by our office. Should it become necessary, we will respond in court."