Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Israeli court bans consensual sex in the workplace

In what the dankprofessor considers a bizarre ruling, the Israeli National Labor Court found that a sexual relationship between an employer and employee can never be considered consensual even if the employee was the initiator and seducer. And if the relationship was purely sexually focused, the employer has engaged in sexual harassment.

The court stated- “in cases of a relationship that is in essence opportunistic sexual relations in the workplace, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the superior, even if it proven that the subordinate seduced him.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision even though the relationship was voluntary and mutual and may have been initiated by the subordinate.

Attorney for the plaintiff, Sigal Pa’il stated “there must be a clear and unequivocal message regarding the norms of conduct in hierarchical relations at the workplace to turn it as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations between employer and employee. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law imposes extra responsibility on the employer to prevent sexual harassment, especially inside the workplace.”

A panel of five judges awarded damages to a 43-year-old woman who maintained a sexual relationship with the chief engineer of the company.  As reported by the Jerusalem Post-

The chief engineer was head of several departments, including the one in which the plaintiff worked. The relationship was entirely sexual and took place in the office, in the car on the way to or from work and at the beach. Each was married when they met.

The district court accepted the man’s claim that the woman had flirted with and tried to seduce him. It also ruled that the plaintiff was obliged to provide stronger proof to back her charges than she would in ordinary civil suit.

Nonetheless, National Labor Court Judge Varda Wirth Livne wrote that “I place the main burden of responsibility on the person who had the authority and attribute less responsibility to the employee who worked under him.

“This is the precedent which I would like to bring to my decision. When we are talking about a relationship that entails nothing more than occasional sex in the security room of the work place, and when, even according to the superior’s version, the relationship did not include anything more than sex, all the responsibility falls on the superior and there is no relevance to the fact that the employee tried to seduce him by wearing provocative clothes or acting in a certain way.” Wirth Livne added that “the aim of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law is to convey a message to employers and superiors that sexual-intimate relations between a superior and an employee which includes no more than sexual acts in the work place should be perceived as inappropriate behavior which should be regarded as sexual harassment while exploiting one’s authority.”

So if one is to take Judge Varda Livne seriously, then a relationship in the workplace between an employer and employee involving both love and sex would be “acceptable”. Some how I doubt that love would be allowed to trump sex.

 The dankprofessor also doubts the Jerusalem Post’s characterization that “women activists and experts in work relations have welcomed the court decision”. Have women activists in Israel really reached a level where they would eagerly embrace such a convoluted decision?

The attorney for the plaintiff did get it right when he stated that this decision will help to turn the workplace as much as possible into a sterile place free of intimate relations. And the consequences of this decision and similar court decisions do lead to sterile workplaces and when applicable to sterile university places. The tragedy and the absurdity is that too many people welcome such sterility although the welcoming may very well be for other people and not for themselves.

ADDENDUM- Some how the dankprofessor missed, but what should have been obvious, is that the court embraced the campus feminist cant that differential power precludes consent.  Unfortunately, this genre of American feminism has found a home in Israeli courts.

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Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 29, 2008 - Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, ethics, feminism, Israel, litigation, love, office romance, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics

1 Comment »

  1. I can’t believe the Israeli Court made such a convulated ruling! Hopefully, this will be appealed, up to the Israeli Supreme Court, if necessary.
    The court wasn’t clear as to the culpability, if the activities took place AWAY from the workplace, such as in either party’s home.
    God forbid any such ruling be made here in the U.S. However, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made such a ruling. Then, it would be onto the Supreme Court, which would hopefully establish the precedent, once and for all, that consensual dating & related activities, between 2 adults are NOT illegal, or civilly liable!

    Comment by Donald Visconti | September 11, 2009 | Reply


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