Café pays NIS 35,000 to Arab man after refusing to let him work

Tel Aviv court awards compensation after manager explicitly tells would-be employee he cannot hire Arabs

Illustrative photo of Israelis sitting at a Tel Aviv cafe. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israelis sitting at a Tel Aviv cafe. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv District Labor Court ruled last week in favor of a man who was turned down for work as a waiter at a café in the city because he is Arab.

The man, Omri Kis, applied to work at the Café Café franchise in the Tel Aviv Port in 2013. He was accepted for the job and began on-the-job training, according to a statement on the case issued Sunday by the Economy Ministry’s Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

At the end of his first day on the job, Kis was asked about his ethnicity by the shift manager. When he said he is an Arab, the manager informed him that he could not be employed by the café because it was a kosher restaurant.

The Chief Rabbinate forbids non-Jews from preparing food it certifies as kosher, as required by Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law, but there is no restriction on employing non-Jews as waiters serving the food.

Café Al Hayam Ltd., the company operating the franchise, argued that the man had filed multiple lawsuits against past employers, alleging discrimination.

Presiding judge Keren Cohen acknowledged the plaintiff’s previous lawsuits, but ruled that they did not affect the facts of the case. She awarded Kis NIS 30,000 in damages for the café’s unlawful discrimination and an additional NIS 5,000 for legal fees.

The verdict cited the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s Tel Aviv Regional Commissioner Shiri Lev-Ran Lavi, who noted in a friend-of-the-court brief that hiring discrimination was rampant.

Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair, who heads the state commission, called the verdict “extremely important.”

“Even though the severe phenomenon of discrimination against the Arab population exists in the labor market, it does not feature sufficiently in the verdicts of the labor courts. This shows the great importance of a verdict carrying a clear message to employees who are discriminated against — that the doors of the labor courts are open to every one of them.”

Café Café said in a statement that it was not a party to the lawsuit and was not involved in the incident at the franchise.

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