Israel Aerospace to compensate spurned Sephardi job applicant

Michel Malka was turned down due to his ethnic-sounding name, court rules

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court ordered the Israel Aerospace Industries Sunday to redress a job applicant who was discriminated against and denied work due to his Sephardi-sounding last name. The company will pay the man, Michel Malka, a certified paramedic who holds a BA in emergency medicine from Ben-Gurion University, NIS 50,000 ($14,000) to reimburse him for his grief.

Malka had applied for a paramedic position at the IAI in July 2008 through the help of Michael Goldenshluger, a friend of Malka’s who worked for the company. A short while later, Ron (Ronnie) Baron, the head of the emergency medicine wing at IAI, informed Malka that he would not be hired for the position as it had already been filled.

According to Goldenshluger, upon handing Malka’s resume to Baron, the latter responded by making a derogatory comment regarding Malka’s ethnicity, calling him an “ars.”

“It’s one of those things you do not expect to hear,” Goldenshluger said during a court hearing. “It shocked me and was so improbable that I remember it to this day.”

Goldenshluger notified Malka of the conversation a number of days later.

Malka decided to apply for the position again after two months, this time changing the name on his resume to Meir Malkiely, a more generic-sounding Israeli name. A few minutes later, Baron called Malka to set up an interview. According to Malka, Baron enthusiastically explained about the position and asked him to begin work at IAI as soon as possible.

Malka then filed a lawsuit against IAI, claiming that the company had illegally discriminated against him in clear violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity law.

Baron insisted in court that Malka’s ethnic background had “nothing to do” with the decision not to hire him. Nevertheless, the court found Baron guilty of unlawful discrimination, stating that Baron’s instinctive initial response was in itself sufficient to incriminate him. The court added that the fact that Baron accepted Malka’s application after the name change served as further evidence of racial discrimination.

According to a recent study conducted by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a job applicant with an Ashkenazi-sounding name has a 34 percent higher chance of being hired by an employer than a person with a Sephardi-sounding name applying for the same position.

A similar survey conducted by the ministry found that over 22% of employers openly stated that they actively discriminate against applicants with Arab-sounding names.

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