Introduction
Practical ramifications: five key cases

Comment


Introduction

The Law on the Right to Sit in Employment (the Law) was enacted and came into effect in 2007. According to the Law, employers must provide suitable seats for employees to use while carrying out their duties or taking a break.

Countries such as England, France and the United States have also passed similar pieces of legislation.

Prior to the Law, the Israeli Work Safety Ordinance 5730-197(1) stated that, as part of an employer's obligation to ensure and maintain employee health and safety, industrial factories had to provide suitable seating areas in the workplace.

The body of law that has informed Israeli court rulings dictates that almost any work can be carried out while seated. Moreover, employers are legally required to design the workplace so that employees can work while seated and must ensure that there is nothing that prevents them from sitting while working. The Law also sets out a sufficient number of seats in the workplace.

The Law further specifies that, in order for a chair to be considered a "work seat", it must:

  • include a headrest;
  • be adjustable in its shape and size to fit the employee's body; and
  • be suitable to facilitate the employee's various duties.

Where possible, the chair should also include a footstool.

Despite the above, some employers may be exempt under the Law if they can prove that it is not possible for their employees to sit during the regular performance of their duties. This article provides an overview of five key cases in this regard, and their practical ramifications.

Practical ramifications: five key cases

Employers who violate the Law or fail to comply can face individual and large-scale class-action lawsuits. Employers may also face an injunction that orders them to install seats that comply with the Law. An employee, a union or an organisation that has received consent from an employee can all initiate such proceedings if they believe that an employer violated the Law.

Dizengof club v Zoeili
In the case of Dizengof club,(2) it was ruled that, in order for the court to decide whether a work role could be carried out while seated, the following considerations must be examined:

  • the nature of the position;
  • the job requirements;
  • the employee's workload; and
  • the job properties.

The court must further examine whether the employer has proved that nature of the job includes constant movement and, if so, whether it is possible to carry out at least part of the work duties while seated.

Alexander vaxman v Alam duty free
In 2016, employees of Alam, a national consumer electronics retailer that also owns stores in a duty-free compound, filed a class-action for 8 million new Israeli shekels (approximately $2.4 million), claiming that they were not allowed to sit while at work.

Further, the Alam employees argued that the chairs placed in the store were reserved for customer use. In response, Alam claimed that the nature of the employees' duties, most of which were in a sales capacity, could not be carried out while seated. The Tel Aviv Regional Labour Court approved the lawsuit, after which parties reached a court-approved settlement agreement.

Ben-zaken V Renuar fashion stores
In a similar case, an ex-sales advisor filed a class action suit against her former employer Renaur, a national clothing retail chain. The Tel Aviv Regional Labour Court accepted the class action request with regard to the Law, but declined other causes of action. The plaintiff estimated the suit at 3.5 million new Israel shekels (approximately $860,000). In its decision, the Court ruled that while most of the employee's assignments were carried out on foot (eg, unpacking boxes and organising fitting rooms), there was also scope for some seated work assignments. The Court, therefore, held that there was nothing preventing the employee from being seated for at least part of the day.

Elad Daniel v Fox
In a 2018 case, an employee of Fox Group, a multinational clothing, footwear and homeware retailer,(3) claimed in a class action for 175 million new Israeli shekels (approximately $53 million) that the company provided unsuitable seating and, therefore, was in violation of the Law.

After inspecting both the chairs and the company's policy on sitting while at work, the court declined the lawsuit, awarded the plaintiff the legal costs and recommended that Fox Group stores be furnished with more suitable seating.(4)

Yan v Classic Hotel management
In this case, a doorman at a hotel claimed that his employer had violated the Law by not allowing him to sit during working hours. The court declined the lawsuit, ruling that standing was integral to his role.

Comment

When structuring the workplace environment, companies should ensure that they provide seats that comply with the requirements of the Law.

In addition, as the Israeli courts tend to interpret the Law narrowly when issuing exceptions, employers should ensure that no employee is restricted from sitting at some point while working or taking a break.

For further information on this topic please contact Michal Rubinstein Nagari at Efrat Deutsch & Co by telephone (+972-3-6096960‚Äč) or email ([email protected]). The Efrat Deutsch & Co website can be accessed at www.edz-law.co.il.

Endnotes

(1) This has since been updated to the Work Safety Ordinance (new version) 5730-1970.

(2) LA (National) 33680-08-10 Dizengof club v Zoeili (published in Nevo), 16 November 2011.

(3) It is also a Nike, Footlocker and Mango franchisee in Israel.

(4) CA (TA) 53030-05-16 Elad Daniel vs Fox (published in Nevo), 19 August 2018.