(photo credit: Illustrative:Reuters)
The Jerusalem Legal Aid Bureau of the Justice Ministry filed a complaint in the
Tel Aviv Labor Court on Sunday against the Kimat Hinam (‘Almost Free’) grocery
chain on behalf of 13 Arab Israelis who claim the chain fired them because they
Attorney Limor Goldenberg- Haddad, deputy director of the
Jerusalem Legal Aid Bureau, slammed the dismissals on Sunday as
‘discriminatory.’ “The complaint concerns violations of the deepest and most
delicate foundations of Israeli society,” she said. “It is contrary to the law
and to rules of justice.”
According to the complaint, the national chain,
which is owned by the Ramle-headquartered Zim Group and has 27 branches across
Israel, simultaneously dismissed 19 Arab-Israeli employees in March without any
Thirteen of those workers subsequently turned to the
Jerusalem Legal Aid Bureau for assistance.
The workers, all employees at
the grocery chain’s Modi’in branch, say they were suddenly called to a
late-evening meeting where managers handed them identical letters of
The letters said the workers were being fired for
“incompatibility with the chain and inappropriate behavior.”
complaint notes that all of the employees worked in different roles and in
different departments of the Modi’in branch, and their only shared
characteristic was that they are all Arab Israelis.
The 13 plaintiffs
also claim they had been subjected to abusive treatment by managers and staff on
the grounds of their nationality, and allege that the chain made Jewish managers
at the branch sign a letter of complaint accusing Arab staff of being a security
They further allege that the Modi’in branch manager had said he
did not want to employ Arabs in the store.
said the letters of dismissal against the Arab-Israeli employees had been
“vague” and made only “general claims.”
“For example, [Kimat Hinam]
argued that one worker was disrespectful to customers – but his job did not
involve serving customers and in fact he barely speaks Hebrew,” she
Sunday’s complaint comes after the Equal Employment Opportunities
Commission of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry petitioned the Tel Aviv
Labor Court in May asking it to overrule Kimat Hinam’s decision to fire the
As a result of that petition, the court ordered Kimat Hinam to
hold individual dismissal hearings for each of the fired workers, in accordance
with the law.
However, in those dismissal hearings, Kimat Hinam had
falsely accused the employees of various charges, including supporting terror
and violence, of being dirty and of cursing, all of which damaged their
reputations as well as caused them shame and embarrassment, Goldenberg-Haddad
“The law has ruled time and time again that equality and
anti-discrimination are rules of justice without which civilized society cannot
live,” she added.
Co-executive director of the Abraham Fund, Amnon
Be’eri- Sulitzeanu, who has supported the workers since their dismissals and
attended several of the dismissal hearings following May’s Labor Court ruling,
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he welcomed the Jerusalem Legal Aid
Bureau’s decision to file the complaint.
The way the firings had been
carried out pointed to “some measure of collective punishment on the basis of
nationality,” Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said.
“That impression grew stronger
during the hearings I attended,” he added. “Fair dismissals should be made on a
firm individual basis, not a collective one, and certainly not on ground of
Kimat Hinam’s co-owner, Rani Zim, did not respond to a
direct request by the Post for comment, but the company said in an official
statement that “the complaint filed during the initial proceedings [in the Tel
Aviv Labor Court] was deleted after the company complied with the conditions set
out by the court.”
The company would respond to any new lawsuit if one
was accepted by the court, the statement added.