Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Do You Employ a Foreign Worker?

Beware: They Have the Same Rights as an Israeli!

Guest post by by Tzvi Szajnbrum, Attorney at Law

Even if you don’t actually fire the worker, he can still ask for compensation and have it be granted by the court, as was the case of Mrs. Guzman from the Philippines (the plaintiff) against Mrs. Rozenfeld (the defendant) in the Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv before the Honorable Judge Dr. Ariela Katz.
The plaintiff sued the defendant asking for five different components:
  1. Severance pay (30 days for every year)
  2. Back pay (difference between actual salary paid and what should have been paid – payment for extra hours of work she did every day)
  3. Notice fees (one must give 30 days’ notice in advance before firing a worker)
  4. Revenue vacation (payment for annual vacation)
  5. Holiday payment (approximately 8 days a year)
The Facts: The plaintiff worked as a caretaker of Mrs. Rozental’s deceased mother (who died in March 2009) from August 2006 until March 2009, for a total of 27.5 months.
The mother, z”l, used to wake up every morning at 6 am and the morning hours were spent in the kitchen reading. The mother would sleep everyday between 2 and 5 pm and she spent the evenings watching TV. The defendant came to visit her mother around 9 pm on a daily basis and used to stay until around midnight. Right after she left the house, the plaintiff put the mother to sleep in her bed.
The plaintiff didn’t leave the house except for once a month for 12 hours, but she had much free time during the day in the house.
The plaintiff received a $50 payment as compensation for the free day she was entitled to have during the week and had no holidays at all. She was never allowed to take the mother out for a walk. The plaintiff was not entitled to hold the key of the house, to go out to the mall, shopping, use the washing machine in the house or even to take the garbage outside the house (it was done only by the defendant). The only time she was allowed to leave the house was to take the mother to the nearby Kupat Holim (the defendant’s sister used to be the one taking her mother to the doctor).
The plaintiff’s salary began at $600 plus 80 NIS for a week (as a pocket money) and later was increased to $650. For each year of work the plaintiff was granted around 2,500 NIS for both revenue Vacation and Holiday payment. For each day of a national Philippine holiday, she was paid an extra $50.
On August 11th, 2008, the mother complained to the defendant that the plaintiff was hitting her. On August 24th the plaintiff asked to be dismissed from her employment, which the defendant refused. On August 25th the police arrested the plaintiff and she spent a night in prison. On the next evening she was released and no charges against her were ever presented.
On December 2nd the plaintiff received a check for 5,316 NIS that was supposed to cover all the “rights” and benefits she was entitled to.
The Plaintiff’s claims: She was paid less than the minimum wage, she was either fired or forced to resign and because of the false complaint against her, she cannot find another job. The plaintiff did not receive 36 continuous weekly rest hours, and instead of this she was given only 12 hours a month!

The Court’s Decision

The court decided as follows: The plaintiff was not entitled to “extra hours” (according to a Supreme Court Decision in another case – “Glutan” that may change in the near future).
On September 21st the Honorable Judge decided as follows:
The picture depicted to us pointed to a shocking and shameful conduct of the defendant to the plaintiff who is a foreign worker, her only “crime” being was that she came to Israel to earn her living. Therefore the defendant will pay the plaintiff the sum she is entitled to by law, a total of 99,102 NIS and in addition, 1,000 shekels in court fees and an extra 15,000 NIS as lawyer’s fees.

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