Israeli Farmer Fined $75,000 for Housing Illegal Foreign Workers in Chicken Coop

Tzion Dadush employed 14 Thai workers without permits to force-feed and slaughter geese at moshav in Judean Lowlands.

Thai workers working in a field on an Israeli farm
Ilan Assayag

A farmer from the Judean Lowlands was fined 300,000 shekels ($75,700) Thursday for employing migrant workers without a permit and housing them in a poultry coop.

Tzion Dadush, together with his father, employed 14 Thai workers to force-feed and slaughter geese. In addition to their substandard housing, the workers had no contracts or health insurance.

Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court initially fined Dadush 120,000 shekels, but the Population, Immigration and Border Authority appealed, demanding a harsher penalty.

National Labor Court judges Varda Wirth Livne, Ronit Rosenfeld and Yael Engelberg-Shoham ruled in favor of the appeal, but noted that they had not judged Dadush to the full extent of the law because he was ill and in debt.

“Not only were the workers employed without a permit, thus damaging the public interest, but the action led to harm to the workers themselves,” they wrote. “The responsibility for housing the workers in a proper place is entirely that of the respondent, and employing them without a permit is the root of all evil,” they added.

The ruling noted that the workers were given no sanitary conditions and were exposed to harmful weather and the stink of the coop. But Dadush claimed the workers themselves had chosen to live in the coop, rather than a building put at their disposal, because they were afraid of the immigration police.

However, the judges ruled that even the building put at the workers’ disposal was not fit for human habitation, and “if they were afraid of the immigration police, this stemmed from the improper conduct of the respondent by the very fact he was employing the workers without a permit.”

Judge Engelberg-Shoham cited precedents in which the court had ruled on the necessity to treat foreign workers with dignity. “It is also our opinion that the inherent gap in the relationship between a labor migrant and an employer – when the foreign worker is far from his family, in a country where he doesn’t know the language and way of life, and is in fact given over entirely to the good graces of his employer – imposes a grave obligation on the employer to act responsibly and respectfully. Employers must not be allowed to take advantage of the weakness of such workers, and harming such workers is to be condemned in the strongest possible way a society allows.”