(photo credit: Courtesy)
Children at an elementary school in Tel Aviv received a civics lesson outside the classroom when they filed a class-action lawsuit against Avidar Security Services, whose guard at the school was constantly smoking.
And they won the case.
The pupils, age six to 12, tried for a long time to get the guard to stop smoking on the job, to no avail. Not only did the toxic smoke bother them, but they also complained that an adult smoking in front of them was a bad example.
Through her father, one girl agreed to represent all the other pupils in the school in a class-action suit filed through a lawyer against the company.
Shortly after the suit was filed, the guard was transferred from the school.
The company defended itself claiming that at the time it was not yet forbidden to smoke in the entire school compound, a prohibition that only came into effect in 2015. The company added that it could not be responsible for the smoker’s smoking. The suit was transferred for mediation to Tel Aviv’s Center for Mediation and Arbitration headed by Judge Nissim Maman, vice president of the Nazareth District Court.
The compromise reached by the parties was an educational one, using a precedent that had been brought by Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel in two of his rulings. Hendel had argued that smoking in a public place was similar to driving and traffic offenses. Just as bad drivers have to take a course to improve their driving methods, so too should a similar course be required for smokers.
Attorney Amos Hausner, longtime chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, who represented the plaintiffs together with Rotem Shor and Ohad Telraz, expressed hope that this educational compromise would serve as a model for many companies to become smoke-free.
“There is no need to wait until a worker is caught smoking illegally,” he said. “The educational lesson here was done by youth, but adults can learn from it. Even without waiting for legal sanctions, parents should not smoke near their children – certainly not pregnant women – and not near pregnant women. Everything must be done so that our future generation will indeed be smoke free as soon as possible.”
Hausner reiterated the initiative to make Israel, as a whole, free from smoking by 2030.
The company, which has thousands of employees, agreed to become a smoke-free firm. It will examine the smoking habits of each of its employees by sending out mandatory questionnaires several times a year to determine their smoking habits.
According to the results of the questionnaires, the company will then encourage its employees to join smoking-cessation programs, bearing any expense involved in their kicking the habit. This includes the provision of drugs for quitting smoking that are not included in the health basket. Forbidden smoking will include the use of electronic cigarettes, rolling tobacco and inhalation of tobacco products.
The company will reward employees who stop smoking with a bonus equal to 10% of their monthly salary.
In addition, it will ensure that its employees do not smoke in public places unlawfully, with an emphasis on places where children are found. The company will appoint inspectors that will enforce this. In addition, smoking prohibited by law will be considered a disciplinary offense in the company, with all that entails.
At the end of two years, the company will report the success of its smoke-free campaign.
In addition, the company will cover expenses, attorneys’ fees and remuneration in the total amount of NIS 280,000.
The compromise recommended by the mediator was brought before Judge Tzilla Tzfat in the Tel Aviv District Court, and none of the parents objected to it.