Israel to Compensate Foreign Worker for Demanding Intimate Details for Visa

The state conditioned the woman's work visa on her refraining from intimate relationships and requested her daughter and employer to report any changes to her status

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
The foreign worker, yesterday.
The foreign worker, yesterday.Credit: גיל אליהו
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel will compensate a foreign worker from the Philippines for demanding intimate information about her relationships as a condition of renewing her work visa.

Under a settlement reached following a lawsuit, the Population and Immigration Authority will pay the woman 27,000 shekels ($8,100). In addition to demanding personal information from her, it then shared this information with both her employer and her daughter and demanded that they inform it of any changes in her love life.

It set these conditions after discovering that the woman had a relationship with another foreign worker and had a son with him. The son was sent to live with her family in the Philippines.

Under authority regulations, a foreign worker who becomes pregnant after being in Israel for less than 63 months can either take the child out of the country and then come back and continue working, or keep the child until their work permit expires and then leave the country. But a worker who gives birth after being in the country for at least 63 months must leave with the child once her maternity leave ends, and if her employer wants to continue employing her, she must return to the country without the child.

If the child’s father is also a foreign national living in Israel, he also has to leave to prevent the family from “settling” in Israel.

In this case, the woman’s partner disappeared after the birth and the baby was sent to the Philippines. She then found employment with a 93-year-old woman, and the two applied to renew the woman’s work visa. But when the authority discovered that she had had a partner, it refused to renew the visa, despite knowing they were no longer in contact.

Eventually, however, it agreed to renew the visa on condition that she provide personal information about her life; promise to report any changes in her relationship status; remain in her employer’s house 24 hours a day, six days a week; and tell the authority which day she is off.

    In 2018, the woman sued the authority. After a magistrate’s court ruled in the authority’s favor last year, she appealed to the district court.

    During a hearing on her appeal, the court asked whether she had to report any encounter with a man. “No, but she must report any change in her situation,” an authority official replied. “If someone says hello to her in the grocery store, she doesn’t have to report that.”

    The authority also demanded an affidavit from the woman’s employer saying she wasn’t in a relationship and was at home with her all day. The woman’s lawyer, Avner Pinchuk of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the authority called her employer twice to ask about her love life.

    Tel Aviv District Court Judge Sara Dotan criticized the authority and demanded to see the regulations allowing it to investigate a foreign worker in such a way or to demand that she remain in her employer’s house so much.

    “My hair stood on end over these conditions, in which the appellant was held under house arrest 24/6,” she said. “What allows you to say that if a foreign worker wants to go out to a pub and meet people there, she has to inform you? Foreign workers aren’t slaves.”

    She also noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that forcing someone to refrain from intimate relationships is “inhumane.”

    The authority’s lawyer said this was the difference between a foreign worker and an Israeli one. “The employment format for a foreign worker in caregiving is six days a week,” he said. “Perhaps the decision could have been worded differently. The intent here was to check whether she was fulfilling the terms of her employment.”

    The authority also said it didn’t investigate the worker, despite having the power to do so, but merely asked her questions. Moreover, it said, by law, she should have been deported, but it agreed to renew her visa anyway.

    As for demanding an affidavit from her employer, it said the employer “was never asked to surveil the appellant or report on her intimate relationships.” Moreover, it said, the woman told her employer she was single, so “she clearly couldn’t be hurt by divulging information that she never divulged.”

    Nevertheless, in light of Dotan’s criticism, the authority agreed to a settlement. Aside from paying compensation, it will cover the woman’s legal costs.

    Pinchuk condemned the authority’s “gross violation of the appellant’s privacy,” saying it seemed to think all means were to prevent foreigners from settling in the country were acceptable. He added that he hoped the court’s criticism would persuade the authority to “cease its destructive, humiliating behavior toward labor immigrants.”

    The authority said in a statement that all workers are made aware that they can be in the country for a limited time before they arrive, and that it is entitled to determine whether foreign workers are meeting the terms of their visas, “and this is not a violation of privacy.”

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