Israeli transport app pays NIS 6 million to Arab drivers who sued over discrimination

Class-action lawsuit results in settlement with Gett and end to its Mehadrin service, which offered Orthodox customers option to use only drivers who don’t work on Shabbat

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Taxis park during a protest against a change in meter prices in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Taxis park during a protest against a change in meter prices in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The app-based transportation company Gett has agreed to pay NIS 6 million ($1.6 million) in a settlement involving a service advertised as kosher, which allegedly discriminated against Arab drivers.

Gett earlier this week signed the settlement, ending a protracted class-action lawsuit against it by the Israel Religious Action Center, which is the legal arm of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. Some 2,800 drivers are to be compensated with sums ranging from NIS 1,000 to 16,000, the Davar newspaper reported.

Gett also halted the service in question, called Mehadrin – a Hebrew-language word referencing the most stringent level of kosher supervision – which it launched in 2015. Under the service, customers were only offered drivers who committed to not working on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, supposedly to satisfy the customers’ religious preference not to encourage fellow Jews to work on that day in violation of halacha, Orthodox Jewish law.

That service provided transportation only on regular working days, and not on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Mehadrin was advertised as a way for devout Jews to make sure they do not receive those services on regular days from Jews who violated halachah by working as taxi drivers on religious days of rest.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that passengers’ religious preferences would also be met under halachah also if they hired non-Jewish drivers, who do work on Shabbat and are under no perceived obligation not to work on those days. The Mehadrin service, therefore, excludes on religious grounds Arabs from work even though there was no religious directive to do so, the plaintiffs argued.

The plaintiffs also said that Gett Mehadrin was either established or served to exclude Arabs from work due to racism. Gett has denied this.

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