Court awards PM’s former worker NIS 120,000 in damages
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Court awards PM’s former worker NIS 120,000 in damages

Guy Eliyahu to be compensated by Prime Minister’s Office, HR company for abuse at Sara Netanyahu’s hands

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Former Prime Minister's Residence employee Guy Eliyahu speaks with the media as he arrives for his lawsuit against the Prime Minister's Office at the regional Labor court in Jerusalem, October 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former Prime Minister's Residence employee Guy Eliyahu speaks with the media as he arrives for his lawsuit against the Prime Minister's Office at the regional Labor court in Jerusalem, October 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem District Labor Court on Tuesday awarded NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages to a former employee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence, ruling that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, had mistreated him with verbal abuse and unreasonable demands. Netanyahu’s attorney rejected the “one-sided” ruling.

Former maintenance worker Guy Eliyahu sued the Prime Minister’s Office for wrongful dismissal and abusive treatment while working at the residence, one of several civil suits alleging Sara Netanyahu mistreated employees.

The ruling came after earlier this week police said an investigation into Sara Netanyahu had been handed over to the state prosecutor. Later reports said police had recommended she be charged with fraud for financial wrongdoing at the official residence.

Judge Dita Proginin ordered the Cleanor human resources company, which employed Eliyahu, to pay him NIS 30,000 ($7,780), and the state to pay NIS 65,000 ($16,860) for “distress” and NIS 25,000 ($6,490) more for breaking labor laws relating to work hours and rest periods. The state and Cleanor were also ordered to pay court expenses of NIS 12,000 ($3,100) within 30 days.

File. Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Labor Court on October 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File. Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Labor Court on October 29, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In testimony given last September, Eliyahu related to the court that Sara Netanyahu had called him back to work after midnight to warm up a bowl of soup. “You’ll return whenever I want to eat,” she scolded him, he said.

He was also ordered back to the residence in the middle of the night for not having wished Mrs. Netanyahu a good night. “You have to say good night to me before you go,” he said he was told.

On another occasion, he said he was sent to buy food only to be accused of “trying to make her fat” when he returned.

Proginin said the demand to return and say good night “was an unreasonable and humiliating request that didn’t take into consideration the rights of the worker to be treated with respect and the right to work reasonable hours.”

In March Proginin awarded Menny Naftali, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages, accepting his claims of mistreatment by Sara Netanyahu. The ruling led to a failed bid by Sara Netanyahu to have Proginin dismissed from the Eliyahu case,

Proginin said that Eliyahu was “exposed to damaging employment at the residence, reflected in reprimands, shouting, humiliations, and excessive and unreasonable demands. During the period he worked at the residence there was an atmosphere of fear, and he was required to work many hours in a manner that doesn’t align with the law.”

Eliyahu’s attorney Naomi Landau called on the prime minister’s wife to mend her ways.

“I have never come across such a cruel employer, who waged an all-out campaign of violence and abuse against simple workers whose only sin was to expect that their rights as workers be upheld,” she said. “I call on Mrs. Sara Netanyahu to change her ways. It is time to stop making fools of the Israeli people. Mrs. Netanyahu, look at yourself in the mirror. You can still change the way history judges you. It is in your hands. You must make a change, for your own sake and for the sake of all workers in Israel.”

Yossi Cohen, a lawyer representing Sara Netanyahu, rejected the decision.

“The real abusive treatment is that of Judge Proginin, who, as expected, again blatantly ignored the testimony of Mrs. Netanyahu,” he said. “The court case has been handled in a one-sided manner and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to bring witnesses that would have discredited the false and deceitful claims of Guy Eliyahu. We intend to appeal this biased and unjust decision,” he adds.

A former cook at the residence, Eti Haim, has also testified against Netanyahu, telling the court that the prime minister’s wife once hit her on the hand for mistakenly opening a door on her.

In a lengthy deposition, Haim, who was compelled to testify by the court after initially refusing to do so, also told of an occasion where Sara Netanyahu threw plates across the garden patio.

On Sunday police told the state prosecutor they had amassed sufficient evidence to put the prime minister’s wife on trial for aggravated fraud for appropriating for private use public funds earmarked for the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Sara Netanyahu has been accused of improper behavior and misuse of state funds relating to the Prime Minister’s Residence, including receiving goods under false pretenses, falsifying documents and breach of trust. She denies any wrongdoing.

Two of the cases involve her using state money to order food for personal use, and a third case involves using public funds to pay for a caretaker for her elderly father.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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