Panel to explore work discrimination

Complaints against employers steadily increasing; Ministry of Industry, Labor and Trade to hold conference to reveal the data.

workplace 311 (photo credit: Veronica Therese)
workplace 311
(photo credit: Veronica Therese)
The number of complaints against discriminatory practices in the workplace has been steadily increasing since the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) two years ago, The Jerusalem Post learned Monday.
The Ministry of Industry, Labor and Trade will hold its second annual conference on Tuesday in Tel Aviv to reveal the discouraging data.
Figures reported by the commission for 2010 are said to include 643 complaints of racism, gender bias or other prejudices in places of employment – up from 498 in 2009. Last year’s increase seems to be continuing this year too, a commission representative said.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair told the Post that the main goal of the conference was to show businesses that equality can be an engine for economic growth.
“We know there are many challenges but we want to make sure employers know that diversity can be advantageous,” she said. “Employing men and women – Jews and Arabs, able and disabled people – in the workplace makes good business sense.”
Among those slated to speak at Tuesday’s symposium are noted industrialists, including Ofra Strauss, chairwoman of the multimillion dollar Strauss Group, who will give a gender perspective on employment, as well as Manpower CEO Orna Segal, Michal Hame’eri CEO of BBDO Israel and Nitsan Lavi, Deputy CEO of Super- Pharm.
The commission will also launch its official guide to diversity recruitment at a special workshop outlining the benefits for businesses that take such steps.
“Israel has a rapidly changing demography and we know that the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations will be the majority in future years. That is why it is important for businesses to open their eyes and open their markets,” said Koenig-Yair.
“That is very difficult to do when all your employees are of the same background and same general appearance.”
Despite the increase in reports of unfair business practices, Koenig-Yair acknowledges that the challenges to reducing discrimination in the workplace are still great.
“It’s not only about filing complaints,” she said. “At the moment we have roughly 20 cases litigated in the Labor Court and some of them will be precedent-setting – but what is more important for us is to get people on board in order to change the overall mindset.”
In addition to exploring the benefits of diversity in the workplace, the conference will also look at the role the media plays in increasing or reducing discrimination, and how the role of military service in Israel dominates employment criteria.
Also sharing their experiences will be some international guests from Northern Ireland, which, has built a model for equal employment opportunities there via its Northern Ireland Equality Commission (NIEC).
In 2009, the EEOC joined forces with the NIEC under a special European Union project aimed at bringing together EU and non-EU nations for mutual cooperation and social development.