By Michal Tadjer, Attorney, Kav LaOved Legal Department

Every year we witness many workers, male and especially female, not complaining of financial violations of rights, but rather reporting demeaning personal treatment and bullying. Today, demeaning treatment is not fully recognized by the courts and is hard to prove and address. Degraded employees are often left with no solution to their problem or support.

As this report was being compiled, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor (MOITAL) published new research on the subject in January, titled “Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace.” It shows that over half of workers in Israel have suffered from harassment in the workplace. Most of the harassment comes from managers; over half of these workerssaid the harassments were a significant bother in their workplace.

In reviewing this year’s appeals made to Kav LaOved, it is apparent that this issue, which has no actual legal answer, brings workers to the brink of desperation and hopelessness, and they are in need of help. The following complaints illustrate the levels of harassment experienced:

“I worked at the office for 13.5 years…it was all good, the way I was treated, up until three years ago. Then his attitude towards me changed. He began sitting in my chair after I’d leave to go home, throwing trash and leftover food on the floor. Every morning I had to pick up his trash, even though he had a trash can right there. After years of having a cleaning lady, he stopped bringing her, and then he suddenly decided it was my job to throw out all the trash from the cans, and when I wouldn’t, he’d take the bags of trash and throw them under my desk so I would take them. I kept quiet for three years. Even when he insulted me I paid him respect and wouldn’t respond because he was my employer and also older than me….until I couldn’t take the abuse any longer.””I work as Head Cashier at a chain of stores. We moved to a new branch, and when I arrived there, all of the employees and suppliers stood at the entrance along with the deputy manager of the branch and the regional manager. When I came and said good morning, the deputy manager turned to me and said, in front of everyone, that I needed to lose 15 kilos by tomorrow because there had been a carpentry error in the construction of the counter, and the space was so narrow I couldn’t pass through (about 20 cm in width). When I asked the regional manager what I should do, he said I should go on a diet, and if that doesn’t work for me I can leave. I was so embarrassed I turned around and went home humiliated, and I don’t know who to turn to or what to do.”

This kind of humiliation can also occur prior to starting a job. We were contacted by L, a young job-seeker who was considering applying for a job at a marketing company. However, this was what the ad for the company said:

“For the launching of a new brand for a leading international company, pleasant-looking and presentable female attendants are needed. Work on Thursdays 16:00-20:00, Fridays 10:00-14:00…
Designer uniforms will be provided for the work, including shirt, pants, and shoes. **Pants up to size 40.
If you think you’re a good fit, hurry and sign up.”

L, whose pants size is over 40, felt humiliated and embarrassed even before the start of the job, which she wasn’t even “eligible” for due to her pants size.

The gendered nature of workplace bullying is clearly illustrated in these three appeals for Kav LaOved’s assistance, which stands in contrast to the findings in the research conducted by MOITAL. Their report concludes that women suffer less workplace harassment than men, perhaps due to broad interpretation of the law against sexual harassment, which thenprevents harassments of a non-sexual nature. Their conclusion does not align with the trend of appeals made to Kav LaOved over the past year and the years before. We believe there needs to be further examination of the characteristics and extent of harassment and bullying of women in the workplace.