Judge: Sara Netanyahu Abused Former Employee at Prime Minister’s Residence

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Sara Netanyahu and her lawyers arrive at court, October 29, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

The Jerusalem Labor Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of Guy Eliyahu, a former maintenance worker at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem who claimed that he was subjected to abusive employment conditions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

Accepting most of Eliyahu’s allegations, Judge Dita Pruginin awarded him $34,500. The judgment was rendered against the Israeli government and the Klinor maintenance firm, which provided Eliyahu’s services at the prime minister’s residence.

The judge found that Eliyahu had been yelled at, reprimanded and subject to unreasonable demands by the prime minister’s wife.

“[Eliyahu’s] allegation that he had been exposed to abusive employment at the residence, which was reflected in reprimands, yelling, humiliation, excessive and unreasonable demands, should be accepted,” the judge ruled. “During the period of his employment an atmosphere of fear prevailed and he was required to work very long hours during the entire period of his employment, which are not consistent with the provisions of the work hours and rest law.”

The judge added that Eliyahu was required to perform tasks involving skills that he had not been informed that he would need when he was hired. She found that Sara Netanyahu reprimanded him on more than one occasion for not knowing how to serve, saying that he was not sufficiently “elegant.” The judge also made reference to Eliyahu’s statement that other staff at the residence were afraid to serve Sara Netanyahu out of fear of her reaction.

Pruginin also noted an incident that Eliyahu recounted in which he said he was called back to the residence late at night because he had failed to get Sara Netanyahu’s permission to leave, although he said the prime minister had agreed that he could go. The judge also found credible the testimony of a former cook at the residence, Etti Haim, who described how she had fainted as a result of Sara Netanyahu’s demands.

Pruginin ordered the state to pay Eliyahu almost $17,000 in compensation for emotional harm, another $6,500 for violating the law on work hours and rest, and nearly $2,000 in expenses. Klinor, the maintenance company that hired Eliyahu to work at the residence, was ordered to pay more than $7,800.

“The real hurtful treatment comes from Judge Pruginin, who, as expected, blatantly ignored Mrs. Netanyahu’s testimony in a biased manner yet again,” said her attorney, Yossi Cohen. “The trial was one-sided and didn’t let Mrs. Netanyahu present witnesses who could refute Guy Eliyahu’s false and offensive claims. We intend to appeal this wrongful and biased ruling.”

Last week, the National Labor Court denied an appeal filed by Sara Netanyahu seeking to disqualify the judge in Eliyahu’s case. The prime minister’s wife sought the disqualification based on the fact that Pruginin had previously ruled in favor of another worker at the residence, Meni Naftali, the chief caretaker.

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