Complaints of Gender, Ethnic Bias at Israeli Workplaces Increase Sharply

Yet fewer complaints charted for discrimination based on age, pregnancy, parenthood or reserve duty.

Women at an employment agency in Jerusalem.
Emil Salman

The number of complaints about workplace discrimination because of gender or ethnic background has increased sharply in recent years, according to data released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sunday.

At the same time, there was a drop in the number of complaints against employers due to ageism, pregnancy, parenthood or reserve duty.

Since the commission was established in 2008 it has received 6,053 complaints. Sixty-three percent were filed by women who suffered workplace discrimination, while only 30 percent were filed by men. The other seven percent were filed anonymously. In 2016, the commission dealt with 708 complaints.

Though complaints of discrimination due to pregnancy have dropped, they still remained the most common complaint last year, making up 27 percent of all complaints. The scope of complaints by women about being refused a job or a promotion due to their gender has doubled over the years, now comprising 12 percent of the complaints. Another leap occurred in the number of complaints relating to ethnic background, which last year made up over 9 percent of the complaints.

According to the report, 3.5 percent of the complaints in 2016 related to discrimination after the filers had complained about sexual harassment. Although a relatively small percentage of all the complaints, there’s a clear increase; while only three such complaints were filed in 2015, there were 25 such complaints last year.

“The rise in complaints to the commission about serious issues, including sexual harassment and gender discrimination, reflect increased awareness of all the parties involved in labor relations in the Israeli economy,” said attorney Mariam Kabaha, the EEOC commissioner. “There’s no doubt that the increase in complaints on this issue are the result of public discussion in Israel over the past few years, which encourages people to complain about injustices in the workplace.”

There are differences between men and women regarding the same type of complaint. Thus, 47 percent of the women who complained of age discrimination did so upon being fired, while only 23 percent of the men who complained related the complaint to dismissal. On the other hand, 53.3 percent of the men who complained of ageism did so after being turned down for employment, compared to only 30 percent of the women.

“Equal opportunity at work is crucial to creating social mobility that moves the economy forward and establishes an equitable society,” Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz said on Sunday.