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Former parliamentary aide accuses MK Merav Michaeli of workplace abuse

Lawsuit seeks NIS 320,000 in damages resulting from ‘humiliating treatment’; Labor lawmaker says allegations are ‘complete falsehoods’

Labor MK Merav Michaeli speaks during a protest in Jerusalem, November 9, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Labor MK Merav Michaeli speaks during a protest in Jerusalem, November 9, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court alleging workplace abuse against Labor MK Merav Michaeli.

The lawsuit was filed by a plaintiff identified as S., 53, who served for about five months as Michaeli’s parliamentary assistant, with her employment ending about nine months ago, according to Hebrew media reports.

Michaeli is one of Israel’s more prominent left-wing lawmakers, a vocal advocate for women’s rights, and has pushed workplace protection legislation in the Knesset.

S., who reportedly has a doctorate in political science, claimed under Michaeli’s employment she experienced “insulting, disparaging, degrading and humiliating treatment… which caused the plaintiff a multitude of mental, psychological and economic damages.”

The plaintiff is seeking NIS 320,000 ($99,000) in damages, Channel 12 reported. She said Michaeli fired her abruptly without giving her a hearing.

According to S., Michaeli once told her: “You do not understand anything. You are on the [autistic] spectrum.”

“She is an abusive employee, not a feminist fighter,” the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ophir Shimshon wrote in the lawsuit. “She tends to humiliate her employees.”

The lawsuit claims Michaeli “imposed punishments against the plaintiff which included aggressive treatment, humiliation, accusations.”

The plaintiff said was expected to work around the clock and be available to Michaeli at all moments, including on Shabbat, and that Michaeli was overly controlling of her schedule.

S. said she was required to do tasks unrelated to her position in parliament, including photographing Michaeli at events, such as a Bar Mitzvah.

Michaeli said in response to the lawsuit, “It is unfortunate and outrageous that the false complaints against me are directed and focused on the issue of abuse, an important area that has been close to my heart for years, during which I have advanced regulatory legislation. This is, of course, not coincidental, but it will also not make me submit to threats. Whatever the real reason for the false complaints, they will not distract me from the struggles on the issue of abuse at work and from my continual efforts to eradicate it.”

She said S. was not up to the job and “refused to carry out the necessary tasks involved in the role, and we were therefore forced to part ways after a short time.”

“All my attempts to part ways in the most respectful manner and make things easy for her were rebuffed by her, to my regret. The accusations against me are complete falsehoods and have no basis. I treat with respect and fairness everyone in my work environment,” Michaeli said.

Michaeli is No. 3 in the Labor party in the outgoing Knesset and was a vehement critic of the Netanyahu-Gantz unity government.

In April, following the last election, the Labor party’s central committee voted in favor of joining the unity government, upending repeated campaign promises to never serve under a prime minister facing a criminal indictment.

Michaeli rejected sitting in a coalition under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making her a de facto opposition member within her own party, and within the coalition.

Netanyahu and Gantz reached an agreement that was supposed to see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021, but a loophole in the agreement saw the coalition collapse due to Netanyahu’s refusal to pass an annual budget.

Israel is consequently now gearing up for a fourth election after the Knesset dissolved last week.

Labor party chairman Amir Peretz said he was stepping aside as leader of the dovish party last week, after driving Labor to its lowest-ever showing in the past election and later breaking his campaign promise not to join a Netanyahu government.

Recent opinion polls have consistently indicated Labor will fail to cross the minimum vote threshold in new elections.

Michaeli cheered Peretz’s decision to step down as chairman and called for leadership primaries.

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