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Shabbat Parashat Teruma 5773

P'ninat Mishpat: Late Pay Without Fringe Benefit

(from Hemdat Mishpat, rulings of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (­=pl) was hired by a youth movement (=def) to run a summer camp. It was agreed that def would arrange for pl to take a course in security and would receive an extra 50 shekels a day for concurrently serving as an armed guard. He was to have been paid 500 shekels for the time he was to have put into taking that course. Due to some mistake in registration, possibly due to def, pl was not able to take part in the course. Pl is suing for compensation for not being able to take the course, which costs 2,000 shekels to take part in and opens the door for employment opportunities over time. Since he was paid at a low rate for activities he was involved in before the camp, def’s obligation to pay for the course should be seen as part of his salary. Pl was also paid late by the camp, and he claims that he is still owed 90 shekels. Def says that they do not know what caused the registration problem. They paid pl 500 shekels and an additional salary of 50 shekel per day during the camp (ten days) as if he took part in the course, but now that pl is suing def in beit din, they want the money back. Regarding the late payment, def blames the delay on the resignation of one of the people in the apparatus and a stint in Army reserves by another. They cannot rule out the possibility that 90 shekels of salary is outstanding.

 

Ruling: First, beit din cannot refrain from criticizing def for its lax outlook toward paying on time. Beit din cited p’sukim from the Torah and the navi, as well as a halachic ruling of the Rambam to impress upon them the seriousness of the matter.

Beit din notes that pl agreed to continue with his job despite finding out a few weeks before the camp that he could not take part in the course. While he was told he would be compensated, he was not told how much he would receive. On the first day of the course, pl travelled to take part in it and thus is like one who came to work as discussed and there was nothing to do. Whether he deserves to get paid (partially) for that day depends on whether def should have known that pl’s participation was not assured (see Choshen Mishpat 333:1).

There is a question as to how much pl deserved to be paid for his job without the ability to carry a gun, and the rule is that when there was no agreement, the worker gets paid according to the lowest rate in the market. In practice, though, def paid him in full (1,000 shekels beyond the base salary), including for the course he did not take.  Even after subtracting 90 shekels, there is still an extra 910 shekels that was paid. That should be a generous compensation for pl’s not taking part in the course. Given that there is logic that pl should be compensated, beit din does not believe that def can demand to have that money returned to them, even though they were sued. On the other hand, since under the circumstances, pl’s demand for extra money appears frivolous, he alone should be responsible for the court fee of 400 shekels.

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