Sexual harassment victim [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Eighteen years after the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law (1998) went into effect, the labor courts’ spokeswoman published on Monday statistics showing the rising number of such cases that the courts are handling in recent years.
While in 2013, only 35 sexual harassment cases were filed in the labor courts, in 2014 the number rose to 46 cases and in 2015 it jumped to 59 cases.
Still, the statistics provided appeared to indicate that most complainants lost their cases, and NGOs have published studies indicating that the vast majority of women still keep silent about being sexually harassed.
In the current system, sexual harassment violations can be pursued both on a criminal level in the regular courts, which can result in jail time, and for civil damages in the labor courts.
The maximum criminal penalty is four years in prison, and the maximum civil award is NIS 50,000 plus related costs.
Sexual harassment, as distinct from more serious kinds of sexual assault, is defined as extortion by threat to get someone to perform a sexual act, indecent acts, propositions or insults of a sexual nature or general hostility stemming from a dispute relating to sexual harassment.
The idea is to prohibit and penalize sexual conduct, usually by superiors in the workplace, which is short of rape or other sexual assault, but is still conduct which society wants to heavily discourage.
The courts spokeswoman also distributed some noteworthy decisions by the courts on sexual harassment from the past year.
Although most sexual harassment cases involve male bosses harassing female employees, in one noteworthy case, a male employee was sexually harassed by a male employer manager.
One feature of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law is that it can apply to male or female bosses and even to same-sex harassment.
The employee complained that his salary was arbitrarily cut when he did not reciprocate to unwanted kisses and touches in intimate areas.
Eventually the employee quit his job over the issue and the emotional trauma it caused him.
The court awarded him over NIS 41,000, fining the employer for the harassing conduct itself and ordering that the employee be reimbursed for lost wages and the cost of therapy.
In another case, a migrant woman working as a family helper was sexually harassed by the father of the family, including his touching her on intimate parts of her body and trying to grab her and throw her onto a bed.
The woman was forced to suddenly quit from the position; the court awarded her more than NIS 40,000 as a fine for the conduct, as well as lost wages and costs for therapy.
There were also several cases where the courts endorsed an approach to damages that somewhat freed those complaining of sexual harassment of proving concrete damages to win the case, as well as awarding damages against a corporation for ignoring sexual harassment complaints, even if the evidence about the complaint itself was somewhat weak.