Adalah returns to Israeli Supreme Court: Gov’t cancelled coronavirus regulations allowing employers to dismiss pregnant women, but thousands already lost their jobs

Israeli gov’t cancelled emergency regulations after Adalah, MK Aida Touma-Sliman went to Supreme Court, but thousands of women lost jobs during 11 days when regulations were in effect.

The Israeli Supreme Court held a hearing today, Monday, 20 April 2020, starting at 11:30 am, on the petition filed by MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel against the emergency coronavirus regulations that allowed Israeli employers to dismiss pregnant women.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher (left) and Joint List MK MK Aida Touma-Sliman today, 20 April 2020, at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. (Photo: Ari Remez/Adalah)


The petition, filed by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher on 12 April 2020, demanded the repeal of the emergency regulations decreed by the government on 6 April 2020. These regulations suspended provisions of the Employment of Women Law – 1954 for the period of the coronavirus, allowing employers to dismiss pregnant women, women undergoing fertility treatments, women on maternity leave and 60 days thereafter, without obtaining a special permit from Israel’s Labor Ministry and thus suspending the provisions of the Working Women Law of 1954 which aims to provide legal protection from arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women in the work place.


This past Friday, 17 April, two days before the state's response to the petition was due to the court, the Israeli government cancelled this emergency regulation, arguing that after the dismissal of these women from their jobs there is no longer any need for the regulations. The state also asked to cancel the Supreme Court hearing.


Indeed, by this time, thousands of women had already been dismissed from their workplaces – in violation of Israeli law – without a special permit from Israel’s Labor Ministry.


According to the petition, data presented to MK Aida Touma-Sliman in her capacity as chairwoman of the Knesset’s Special Committee on Welfare and Labor Affairs revealed that more than 4,000 applications for permits to dismiss women from their jobs were submitted between 15 March 2020 to 30 March 2020 – prior to the implementation of the emergency regulations – compared with 1,200 applications in a normal year. The emergency regulations allowed the automatic dismissal of these women. Media reports indicated that, following the repeal of the regulations on 17 April 2020, more than 9,000 applications had been submitted during the month of March for the dismissal of female employees protected by law.


Yesterday, the Knesset and the State Attorney's Office sought the dismissal of the petition without a court hearing. However, in its request to nevertheless hold the hearing, Adalah emphasized that as state authorities did not respond to the arguments put forth in the petition challenging the legality of the emergency regulation, it is essential to hold the court hearing as scheduled.


The court hearing will ensure, Adalah argued, that every woman who was wrongfully dismissed can voice her position or appeal the dismissal.