Lawyer to challenge forced retirement law

Shoshana Gavish says people should have right to work past 67

Elderly couple making aliya 370 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram; courtesy of Nefesh B’Nefesh)
Elderly couple making aliya 370
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram; courtesy of Nefesh B’Nefesh)
A prominent labor lawyer announced on Tuesday that she is gearing up to challenge systematic age discrimination highlighted most extremely by a 40-year-old law that forces people to retire at the age of 67.
Lawyer Shoshana Gavish filed a legal claim on Tuesday in the Haifa Labor Court asking for the law to be revoked on the basis that it is in contraction with the more recent Equal Opportunities Employment Law. The suit filed by Gavish is on behalf of her husband, Prof. Moshe Gavish from the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, against the institution where he has worked for more than 30 years.
Gavish said her goal was not to damage the reputation of the Technion but rather to challenge the foundations of this country and to bring about a serious change in attitudes toward ageism in the workplace.
“We consider compulsory retirement to be discriminatory and not constitutional,” Gavish told The Jerusalem Post, adding that depending on the response she receives from the Technion and the court, she is willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Gavish said that while her husband will only reach compulsory retirement age in two years, “we are seeing many friends and colleagues who are being forced to retire even though they are still in the prime of their life.
“We really feel that people who are approaching retirement age are slowly being edged out of their activities and are made to feel irrelevant,” she said, adding, “I think it is wholly unjustified and unjustifiable.”
Currently the law obliges employers to fire their workers when they reach 67, she said. Continuing employment after this age depends solely on the discretion of the employer.
Dismissing as stereotypical the notion that elderly people might not be physically or mentally able to continue on in their workplace and the law could be considered a safeguard against incompetence, Gavish emphasized that deciding to terminate a person’s employment “should be performance related.”
“There is absolutely no justification to force people at the age of 67 who are in full capacity to go home,” she said.
In the legal document filed on Tuesday, Gavish points to other OECD countries and the US, which eliminated such a law a long time ago. She also points out that the original Israeli law, which was created 40 years ago, is less relevant today with increased life expectancy and different types of jobs.
While Moshe Gavish has yet to find out how the Technion will respond to the claim, his wife sees this as just the start of an all-out battle to change the law.
“This legal claim does not, of course, exclude other avenues that should be employed to make this change,” she said, alluding to the possibility of drawing in parliamentarians to amend the existing legislation. “In this case, the legal point of view is based on a personal grievance, but it should also become a fully blown movement on other fronts too.”
Requests for a response from the Technion were not immediately returned on Tuesday.