NIS 900,000 awarded to 3 former workers at Netanyahu’s official residence in abuse case

PM’s office reaches settlement with accusers, who say non-disclosure agreements prevent them from describing full scope of labor violations, bullying, and abuse of services

The Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem, in an undated photograph. (Yaakov Saar/GPO)
The Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem, in an undated photograph. (Yaakov Saar/GPO)

The Jerusalem Labor Court on Friday awarded NIS 900,000 ($240,000) to three former employees of the Prime Minister’s Residence who claimed they were repeatedly abused and did not receive overtime pay while working there, Hebrew media reported.

Former maintenance workers Aharon Naor and Yair Yitzhaki, who were employed at the Jerusalem residence from 2015 to 2021, were awarded NIS 266,000 ($71,000) and NIS 289,000 ($77,000), respectively; chef Joseph Corson, who worked there from 2015 to 2020, was awarded NIS 390,000 ($105,000). The ruling came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office agreed to settle with the workers, without admitting to their claims.

Haaretz reported that Naor and Yitzhaki, the maintenance workers, stated in two similar lawsuits that they had faced “inconceivable” bullying from their superiors and were treated as “modern-day slaves.” Both said that non-disclosure agreements prevented them from detailing more than a small part of the abuse they had faced.

According to the daily, Naor alleged that he had been inappropriately asked “countless times” to bring food to the Netanyahus’ private home in Caesarea and water the plants and clean the pool there. The lawsuit reportedly said that the entire staff of the Prime Minister’s Residence was bullied, not just Naor.

Corson, the chef, said the Netanyahus had inappropriately made him cook for private affairs they hosted at the Jerusalem residence, and that he worked six days a week without extra pay for overtime, weekends or holidays.

“The scope of the work was enormous, almost inhuman,” Haaretz quoted Corson as saying. The cook claimed he was allowed to finish working only when personally okayed by Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, prepare to board a plane for the US early Monday, September 18, 2023. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Haaretz reported that the state argued the suits were made in bad faith since the workers had agreed to cede the rights to overtime pay and rest periods guaranteed them by law — which, the state claimed, does not apply to so-called “positions of trust,” referring to employees who are hired and fired at politicians’ will.

The Netanyahus, especially Sara, have repeatedly been accused in the past of mistreating workers in the Prime Minister’s Residence. The residence’s former manager, Meni Naftali, was awarded NIS 170,000 ($45,000) in 2016 for emotional abuse directed at him by Sara Netanyahu, whom he accused of, at one point, hurling a vase of flowers at him.

The residence, on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, has been undergoing renovations for several years.

The Balfour residence, often referred to simply as Balfour, was the epicenter of protests in 2020 and 2021 — in which Naftali played a leading role — demanding Netanyahu’s resignation amid corruption charges against him.

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