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Israel: Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Suits

(Feb. 9, 2012) On January 30, 2012, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed an amendment to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 5758-1998). According to the 1998 Law, sexual harassment and any harm originating from a complaint or a suit regarding sexual harassment are civil wrongs for which compensation may be paid. Sexual harassment includes threats, indecent acts, repeated sexual offers, or comments focusing on a person's sexuality when the person has expressed a lack of interest in such offers or comments, as well as demeaning behavior towards a person regarding his or her gender, sexuality, or sexual orientation. (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law, 5758-1998, § 3, SEFER HAHUKIM [Official Gazette] 5758, at 166 (1998).)

The original law limited the period during which plaintiffs could file sexual harassment suits to three years from the date of the act constituting the cause of action. The amendment replaces this shortened period with the regular statute of limitations period of seven years, which is the term prescribed by the Prescription Law, 5718-1958, for all claims not relating to land. (Prescription Law, 5718-1958, 12 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL 129 (5718-1957/58.)

According to the amendment bill, the extension of the statute of limitations for sexual harassment suits is justified in view of the special characteristics of the offense, including

the long process that is required for the victim to recognize that he (or she) suffered from harassment, feelings of guilt, and fear of exposure and loss of employment. In addition, when the harm is caused through the use of a relationship of supervision or dependence, the victim has difficulty filing a suit as long as the relationship has not ceased. … (Prevention of Sexual Harassment (Amendment No. 7) Bill 5772-2012 [in Hebrew], the Knesset website (last visited Feb. 7, 2012) [translation by author].)

Although the bill proposed replacement of the three-year statute of limitations with four years, the text of the amendment law as approved by the Knesset extended that period to seven years. (Prevention of Sexual Harassment (Amendment No. 7) Law 5772-2012 [in Hebrew], Knesset website (last visited Feb. 7, 2012).)