State Appeals Damages Awarded to Netanyahus’ Former Caretaker Over Maltreatment

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Left: Meni Naftali. Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Photos by Moti Milrod and Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO

The state is appealing the damages awarded recently to the former chief caretaker of the prime minster’s residence, on the grounds that there were legal errors in the ruling on the civil defamation suit.

The appeal does not challenge the court’s judgment regarding the abusive conduct of Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the affair.

In February, Jerusalem District Labor Court found that the Netanyahus had violated the employee rights of Meni Naftali and awarded him 170,000 shekels ($43,500) in damages. In her verdict, Judge Dita Pruginin accepted Naftali’s claim that he had been subjected to intolerable employment conditions while at the prime minister’s residence and was entitled to compensation.

The main argument in the appeal is that Pruginin erred in awarding Naftali 80,000 shekels for emotional distress – a decision that was based on a legal bill that is still in the preliminary legislative stages.

Pruginin had acknowledged that the proposed Law to Prevent Abusive Labor Practices had passed only a preliminary reading in the Knesset and had not been enacted, but added that its provisions could nonetheless serve as the basis for a lawsuit and the award of damages. “By the same token, sexual harassment existed before laws against it were passed, and rulings were issued that dealt with” the offense, Pruginin wrote.

The state also appealed the court’s ruling that Naftali had been misled into thinking he would receive a permanent position at the prime minister’s residence, for which he was awarded 75,000 shekels in compensation. State attorneys argued that no such promise was possible and that the assignment of damages undermined the principles of public administration.

Pruginin acknowledged in her ruling that while no promise had been broken according to the letter of the law, Naftali had still been deceived concerning the terms of his employment.

“The complainant knew he was employed as a replacement and would have to compete in a tender in order to get full-time employment as chief caretaker,” Pruginin wrote. “But no one told him there would not be a tender for the position and that, even if a tender was issued, he would be unable to compete due to his lack of academic qualifications,” she added.

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