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Women job candidates need not reveal pregnancy, court rules

May 30, 2010. Globes: Chen Ma'anit

From a National Labor Court ruling, a precedent-setting decision can be inferred - that a woman in the early stages of pregnancy does not have to disclose that she is pregnant at a job interview. The court increased compensation awarded by a district labor court to a woman who was fired because of a pregnancy from NIS 20,000 to NIS 50,000, and ruled that the case was a violation of the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law (5478-1988).

In 2003, Sharona Arviv was hired as a secretary by biotechnology company Foamix Ltd.. She was in her second month of pregnancy at the time. Ten weeks later, when she informed her supervisor that she was pregnant, she was fired. She sued the company on the grounds that she was fired because she was pregnant, and sought compensation under the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law.

The district labor court partly ruled in Arviv's favor and awarded her compensation, but rejected her claim that her being fired was a breach of the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law, because the company had fewer than six employees at the time.

Arviv appealed the ruling to the National Labor Court.

In its defense, Foamix argued that Arviv's pregnancy was a material and legitimate factor in the decision to fire her, and that she had an obligation to inform the company of her pregnancy during the job interview. The fact that she did not,showed, according to the company, a lack of trustworthiness and reliability, which was grounds for firing her. The company also argued that the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law did not apply in this case because the company had fewer than six employees, not including three managers, at the time she was fired.

The majority of the National Labor Court panel ruled in Arviv's favor. "In this case, the petitioner's pregnancy is not relevant to her fulfilling her duties at the company. Her tasks did not include physical efforts dangerous for a pregnant woman, nor did they involve exposure to hazardous substances, which would require a female employee to notify her employer about her pregnancy. Under these circumstances, the company has no grounds for attributing special significance to the time when the employee could be expected to be on maternity leave. Non disclosure of this detail is not an act of dishonesty justifying a claim by the employer toward the employee," ruled the court.

The National Labor Court ruled that since Foamix had six employees during an earlier period, the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law applied to the company.

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