The Tel Aviv Labor Court decided on Sunday that the Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal Local Council could ban an assistant from a school if she did not agree to undergo a coronavirus test or to be vaccinated against the virus.
The decision was made after an assistant at a school in the municipality filed a complaint to the court against the council’s policy to ban staff who didn’t undergo coronavirus tests every seven days or receive the COVID vaccine.
Judge Meirav Kleiman stated in the decision that the court does not believe that “the applicant’s apparent rights outweigh the respondent’s right and duty to care for the welfare of their students, educational staff and students’ parents – and in our opinion, the balance of convenience clearly leans, at this time, to the side of the respondent who believes in the safety of all who come through its gates – working and non-working – children and adults.”
The court stressed that it is not required and was not asked to require the applicant to be vaccinated against her will. The court also agreed that, while the requirement to undergo a test against the applicant’s will did impact her fundamental right to bodily autonomy, it stressed that the life and health of the students, their parents and the school’s staff wins out, as the “superiority and importance” of the rights to life and health are “undisputed.”
The court added that it did not agree with the claim that there was “no legal source” for the council’s requirement to care for the interests of the students, parents and staff or to require a coronavirus test, since the council, as the owner of the school, has the duty to ensure the safety of its employees and its students and their parents.
The decision stressed that the right to life is a “fundamental right of a higher level – the most fundamental right, on which all rights are based,” and that the fundamental right to dignity and privacy is on a lower level.
“This is a welcome precedent that will affect the entire education system and the entire Israeli economy,” said Naama Shabtay Bahar, the attorney representing the local council, in response to the decision.
“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.”
“We are sorry that the court decided to accept the position of the local council, despite the fact that it was a decision made without authority and in violation of the law,” read a response to the decision by the assistant. “Beyond that, we will study the decision of the court, and consider appealing to the national court soon.”