Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein wrote to the High Court of Justice on Monday that it should reject a petition that seeks to strike the mandatory retirement law for being too inflexible and unconstitutional, and give the post-election government time to reevaluate the issue.
Weinstein suggested that the debate was a hot political issue, with unresolved disputes not only about having mandatory retirement, but about also raising the age of retirement.
He said that the people’s political representatives, in the form of the next Knesset, not the courts, should resolve the debate.
In November, an expanded seven-justice panel of the High Court heard oral arguments about the law’s constitutionality by the state and by leading professors, who oppose the present employment law.
Supreme Court President, then deputy president, Miriam Naor led the hearing, which was live-streamed from the court’s website, as part of an ongoing project to increase transparency on key constitutional cases.
At the November hearing, the justices’ questions to Chani Ofek, the state attorney’s representative, included hypothetical suggestions to tweak the current law, in which retirement at 67 was mandatory, unless both the employer and the employee wanted the employment relationship to continue. The employee only need retire if the employer does not agree to continued employment.
One justice suggested that the mandatory retirement age could be raised higher than 67, having already been raised from 65, because of longer lifespans.
Another justice suggested that if there were no law mandating forced retirement at a certain age, such as 67, employers and employees could decide the issue on a case by case basis, but that making retirement mandatory went too far.
Ofek defended the present law, and said that without mandatory retirement the younger generation would not be able to find jobs.
The absence of mandatory retirement would most likely defend wealthier peoples’ job security at poorer peoples’ expense, she added.
The high-profile academics who supported the petition to the High Court include Profs. Asa Kasher, Ruth Ben-Israel and Mordecai Segev.
The petition was filed by attorney Shoshana Gavish on behalf of her husband, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology Prof. Moshe Gavish.
Shoshana Gavish pointed out that the arguments the state made about negative impacts for younger workers in countries where mandatory retirement was eliminated was usually a passing, threeyear phenomenon.
A spokesman for Gavish said that while the 2012 Weinberg decision had helped some elderly workers avoid mandatory retirement under the present law, the petition was far more ambitious in seeking to throw out the law in its entirety.
In February 2014, the High Court of Justice issued an interim conditional order requiring the state to explain why the retirement age of 67 should not be voluntary, as opposed to mandatory.
That order, as well as the order to analyze the Weinberg decision’s implications, may give guarded optimism to the petitioners that the court is seriously considering overturning the law.
The petition argued that the law requiring mandatory retirement at 67 from certain positions, was passed at a time when people died and became physically diminished at younger ages, and notes that many democratic countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, have already changed any such discriminatory laws.
In response, the state had said that there are other democratic countries that still have a mandatory retirement age, including in the European Union, adding that the cut-off age of 67 was selected after consultation with expert sociologists.
Gavish said that without High Court intervention, “the chances of elderly workers avoiding discrimination under the law is zero.”