Supreme Court orders Israeli gov’t to find solutions for thousands of pregnant women fired during coronavirus crisis

Israel’s emergency regulations allowed employers to dismiss pregnant women; following Supreme Court hearing on Adalah’s petition, MK Aida Touma-Sliman: We will fix what Israel’s regulations ruined and will restore the rights of women fired just because they were pregnant.

The Israeli Supreme Court on Monday, 20 April 2020, ordered Israeli authorities to appear before the Knesset’s Special Committee on Welfare and Labor Affairs and find a solution for thousands of women who were fired after the government decreed emergency coronavirus regulations allowing Israeli employers to dismiss pregnant women.


At the end of Monday’s full-day hearing on the petition filed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel on behalf of MK Aida Touma-Sliman against the emergency coronavirus regulations, the Supreme Court justices erased the petition and referred the issue to the Knesset committee for resolution.


The Knesset’s Special Committee on Welfare and Labor Affairs will convene to tackle this issue on 27 April 2020.


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, chairwoman of the special Knesset committee charged with finding solutions for the women, commented on the court’s decision:


"The Supreme Court's decision proves that the Israeli government is not above the law – not on ordinary days and not during an emergency. The court clearly stated that the government cannot continue to issue emergency regulations without parliamentary oversight. I will now convene a Knesset committee session quickly to examine the situation and to find solutions for the women who were harmed."


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher, who argued at the hearing also commented on the court’s decision:


"We were strengthened by this decision. Now the question remains of how to deal with the consequences of the damage created by the Israeli government, which acted without any legal authority. We asked that this crucial issue be resolved by the Knesset committee headed by MK Aida Touma-Sliman. The Israeli government cannot continue to decree and implement emergency regulations, especially now that the Knesset has convened and is in operation.”


The petition, originally filed by Adalah 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 law which aims to provide legal protection from arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women in the work place.


This past Friday, 17 April 2020, 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 women employees protected by law.


Case Citation: HCJ 2486/20 MK Aida Touma Suleiman and Adalah v. The Prime Minister, joined with HCJ 2499/20, The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) et al. v. The Prime Minister by the Supreme Court


(Photo by Ari Remez/Adalah)