Suing for Sexual Harassment in Israel: A Comprehensive Guide
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is a societal scourge in Israel, as it is in many countries worldwide. The Israeli legal system offers several avenues for victims to seek justice. In this article, we’ll discuss the legal framework when suing for sexual harassment in Israel.
Decker, Pex, Levi, Rosenberg, a leading law firm based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, can help victims navigate the challenging process of suing for sexual harassment.
Legal Framework for Sexual Harassment in Israel
Israel has two primary laws that address sexual harassment: the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law (1998) and the Civil Wrongs Ordinance (1968). The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law specifically targets sexual harassment and retaliation by the harasser. This law outlines various prohibited behaviors, such as unwelcome sexual advances, sexual extortion, and creating a hostile work environment. The Civil Wrongs Ordinance, on the other hand, is a broader law that allows victims to seek compensation for harm caused by another’s wrongful actions, including sexual harassment.
Is Sexual Harassment a Crime or a Civil Tort in Israel?
Sexual harassment and retaliation against victims who speak out are defined in Israel as both civil wrongs and crimes. Therefore, the harassment victim has two possible tracks they can pursue. They can either begin the process by filing a criminal complaint with the police or choose the purely civil track and file a personal lawsuit against the victimizer. The legal procedures in the criminal courts and the civil courts are very different from each other. The statute of limitations, the burden of proof, and the judicial remedies differ. Before deciding whether to begin the judicial process and which track to choose, seeking professional legal counsel from an Israeli attorney is essential.Our law office can provide experienced legal consultations on how to deal with such dilemmas.
The Criminal Complaint Route
When filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Israel Police, the victim has the right to choose the gender of the police officer who will record their complaint. In criminal cases, there is a five-year statute of limitations, after which the victim cannot file a criminal complaint for a misdemeanor. However, in the case of egregious sexual harassment (e.g., retaliation or threats against the victim to not come forward), the crime is considered a felony. It, therefore, is subject to a ten-year statute of limitations. In both cases, there are notable exceptions that apply. Consider consulting a lawyer before choosing which option is best for you, especially if some time has passed since the abusive act.
Criminal Trials for Sexual Harassment in Israel
In criminal cases, the victim is not the plaintiff. Instead, the victim is considered a witness, whereas the state is the prosecutor. Accordingly, the state prosecutor is the party that decides whether to indict the perpetrator with a crime or not. The perpetrator can only be sentenced to prison in criminal court cases.
However, after a criminal case has been closed, the victim can proceed with a civil lawsuit regardless of whether there was a conviction or an acquittal or whether the perpetrator was ever indicted.
Civil Suits for Sexual Harassment in Israel
Victims can file a civil lawsuit for damages as a follow-up to a criminal conviction or as an independent legal recourse. The primary remedy offered by a civil case is the potential for monetary compensation, providing victims with a means to address the harm they have suffered. These victims can be awarded up to 120,000 NIS in damages without proving specific monetary harm. This is in addition to compensation for any measurable damages incurred by the sexual harassment.
Our law firm has offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Its experienced civil lawyers can help you receive the compensation you deserve – whether through a civil trial, negotiations, or mediation.
The Statute of Limitations in Civil Cases
Suing for sexual harassment in Israel’s civil courts has undergone significant changes in recent years. Previously, a three-year statute of limitations limited victims’ time to pursue legal action. However, this limitation has been extended to seven years, on par with most other civil wrongs, allowing victims a longer window to seek justice. In some cases, this period is extended, especially if the victim was a minor when they were harassed. Consult an Israeli civil attorney regarding the statute of limitations for your case.
The Burden of Proof
In Israeli law, the prosecutors in a criminal case must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt for the judge to convict the perpetrator. Conversely, when suing for sexual harassment in Israel’s civil courts, the victim must demonstrate that their account of the events is more probable than the harasser’s account. In other words, the victim’s legal counsel must prove that there is a 51% probability that the sexual harassment occurred, not a 99% certainty.
The Responsibility of the Employer
Far too often, a victim experiences sexual harassment at their workplace. The Israeli Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law (1998) recognizes that an employer must guarantee safe working conditions free of harassment and hostility. The employer must manage cases of harassment in an efficient and timely manner and implement administrative regulations and preventative safeguards. If an employer is negligent in fulfilling these duties, they are complicit in the harmful tort and can be sued for the damages inflicted.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim in Israel in 3 Steps
When suing for sexual harassment in Israel, victims should follow these three steps:
- They should discuss the case’s legal merits with an attorney specializing in Israeli civil law. Together, they will determine the best course of action.
- The victims and their legal counsel must prepare and submit a written complaint to the court detailing the incidents of sexual harassment and the damages sought.
- The accused harasser should be notified about the complaint and provided an opportunity to respond.
Gathering Evidence for Your Sexual Harassment Claim
To build a solid sexual harassment case, victims must gather and present evidence to support their claims. This may include:
- Written or electronic communication, such as emails or text messages, contains inappropriate or offensive content.
- Witness statements from colleagues or others who observed the harassment.
- Records of complaints made to supervisors or human resources departments.
Preserving this evidence is crucial; an attorney can help you collect and organize the necessary documentation.
Compensation in Sexual Harassment Cases
In Israel, victims of sexual harassment may be entitled to various forms of compensation, including:
- Monetary damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.
- Reimbursement for lost wages and benefits due to wrongful termination or forced resignation.
- Punitive damages in cases of particularly egregious behavior.
The amount of compensation awarded will depend on factors such as the severity of the harassment, the impact on the victim’s life, and the harasser’s conduct.
Challenges and Recommendations for Sexual Harassment Victims
Suing for sexual harassment in Israel can present several challenges for victims, such as:
- The difficulty of proving the harassment occurred, especially in cases without direct evidence or witnesses
- The need to overcome feelings of embarrassment and shame when speaking of the victimization they experienced
- Navigating the complexities of Israeli civil law and legal procedures
To address these challenges, we recommend consulting with a skilled Israeli attorney who can provide guidance, support, and expertise throughout the process. Decker, Pex, Levi, Rosenberg a reputable law firm specializing in civil law in Israel, has a team of experienced attorneys ready to assist you in your sexual harassment case with compassion and professionalism.
Sexual harassment is a severe and pervasive issue in Israel, and victims should not hesitate to pursue justice. By understanding the legal framework, gathering evidence, and seeking professional legal assistance, victims can hold their harassers accountable and obtain the compensation they deserve. Decker, Pex, Levi, Rosenberg with offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is committed to helping victims navigate this complex process. Call 03-3724722 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case with an experienced Israeli attorney.
Legal Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Consult a qualified attorney for advice on your specific situation.
Emergency hotline for victims of sexual assault: Tel.: 1202: Women | or 1203: Men
Child Online Protection Bureau hotline: Tel.: 105 (for internet harassment of minors)