New Regulations Would Impede Palestinians Seeking to Sue Israeli Employers

Jordan Valley farmers, who are frequently sued by their laborers for denial of basic rights, have welcomed new regulations.

Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover
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Palestinians working at a grove of date palms in the Jordan Valley.
Palestinians working at a grove of date palms in the Jordan Valley. Credit: Michal Fattal
Tali Heruti-Sover.
Tali Heruti-Sover

Palestinian laborers who work in Israel will face a new obstacle when they try to fight for their rights in Israeli courts, under new regulations being advanced by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked both of Habayit Hayehudi.

Under the regulations, a person who is not an Israeli citizen or who has no assets in Israel who seeks to sue his employer for labor law violations would have to submit a financial guarantee to the court, which will be forfeited if the court determines the complaint was frivolous. The initiative has been dubbed the “Jordan Valley regulations” since it mainly affects laborers in that area, and is being welcomed by Jordan Valley farmers. It does not require Knesset approval, and will go into effect shortly, said Shaked’s office.

No labor court currently requires the posting of any financial guarantees, whether the complainant is a citizen or not.

Two years ago TheMarker published an investigative report on the exploitation of Palestinian workers in the Jordan Valley, which showed that local farmers do not grant these workers basic rights like a salary slip, minimum wage, and vacation and sick days. There are no written contracts between the farmers and their workers, so a farmer can fire an employee at will, even if he’s employed him for years.

Some workers who realize that their employment terms violate Israeli labor laws engage attorneys and file suits in the labor courts, but often come away empty-handed because they cannot not prove an employer-employee relationship. The farmers, meanwhile, incur legal fees defending themselves.

Moalem-Refaeli said the proposal was aimed at helping Jordan Valley farmers battle the “legal intifada” she said they’ve been subjected to in recent years.

“Farm owners are being swamped by frivolous claims and must cope with a methodical effort to impoverish them and destroy Jewish agriculture in the Jordan Valley,” she said. “The state must intervene. Arabs from the nearby communities are willing to take their chances; even if they lose, the farmer can forget about recovering his legal costs because we’re talking about residents of the Palestinian Authority.

“Most of the lawsuits end in some ridiculous settlement and in some cases the workers demand wages for times of the year when there is no need or reason to work on the farm. A significant portion of the claims against the farmers come from PA residents who never even worked for that farmer. It’s worth trying since there’s nothing to lose. That’s why under this welcome legislative measure by myself and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the condition for filing a lawsuit is the provision of a [financial] guarantee.”

Shaked’s office said, “The regulations do not require the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and will go into effect when they are published in the government gazette shortly.”

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