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Employees can be fired for not vaccinating, refusing testing, Israeli court rules

Lawyer says precedent-setting ruling will “affect the entire education system and the entire Israeli economy”

Medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine injection at a vaccination center in Jerusalem on March 8, 2021. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli labor court has ruled that an employee who has not been vaccinated and opts not to submit to regular COVID-19 testing can be fired. 

The precedent-setting case was decided on Sunday in a Tel Aviv labor court.

While it will likely be appealed, the case sets the groundwork for a tide of lawsuits currently being filed by employees in Israel since the implementation of the “green passport” system, which indicates whether a person has been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

Since the green passport was approved by the Knesset last month, some municipalities, government institutions and private companies have made employment contingent upon possession of this new digital vaccination or COVID-19 recovery documentation.

Cases of dismissal are now being challenged in court. 

In the precedent-setting ruling on Sunday, a Tel Aviv labor court ruled that a school worker who exercised her right not to be vaccinated or undergo COVID-19 testing “does not outweigh the respondent’s right and duty to care for the welfare of their students, educational staff and students’ parents.”

While the court stressed that vaccination cannot be imposed and that requiring the employee to be tested against her will “did impact her fundamental right to bodily autonomy,” it ruled that the rights and health concerns of the students, their parents and the school’s staff are “undisputed.”

Judge Meirav Kleiman weighed “the existing information on the vaccine’s efficiency in preventing infections” against “the obvious and immediate harm that could be done to the students” with special needs “who cannot adhere to distancing rules” in issuing her decision.

She said the balance between the employee’s rights and those of the students’ “tips clearly” in favor of the latter.

The local council’s attorney, Naama Shabtay Bahar, called the decision “a welcome precedent that will affect the entire education system and the entire Israeli economy.” 

“The Labor Court very wisely struck the right balance between the rights of workers and the public good as a whole,” she said. “Each employee may decide on his or her body and right to be vaccinated or not. But every employee must also bear responsibility for [that] decision. Of course, the responsibility should not be placed on employers, whose whole purpose is to protect their employees and the general public who come to the gates of the workplace.”

Teaching assistant, Sigal Avishai, will not go back to her work at a school in Tzur Yigal in central Israel and won’t receive payment. Her attorney said he will appeal the decision. 

In another case, an employee fired from a fitness center withdrew his complaint filed in the Tel Aviv Labor Court and accepted his dismissal. The employee refused to present a green passport or frequent negative coronavirus tests. 

The rules recently implemented by the Knesset associated with Israel’s warp-speed vaccination campaign have rocked the nation, imposing what many believe is government-instituted discrimination against Israelis who have chosen not to be vaccinated. 

The High Court ordered a temporary injunction to another highly controversial law passed by the Knesset which allowed the Health Ministry to hand over to local authorities data on residents who have not received the Pfizer injection.

The controversial law authorized the Health Ministry to transfer data to municipalities and the Education Ministry for a three-month period in order to encourage the unvaccinated to be immunized.

In their decision, the judges said the law harmed “the constitutional right to privacy” guaranteed in Israel’s Basic Laws.

Most Israelis who are eligible to receive the vaccine have done so. More than 4.5 million residents who are 16 and older and have not recovered from COVID have now received both doses, and some 5 million have already received the first shot, accounting for about 90% of the eligible population.

Israel, which signed a deal with Pfizer to exclusively collect data on its citizens in this vaccination campaign, has continued to outpace the world in inoculations per capita.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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