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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: Not Hiring Someone After Causing Him to Quit Job part I

(based on ruling 76077 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) worked in a senior position in a store and wanted to switch jobs to work at the defendant’s (=def) store in the same field. After general agreement on salary (10,500 shekels a month) and other conditions (including use of a company car), def asked pl to start working on Jan, 1, 2016. In order to not anger his present employer, from whom he hoped to receive severance pay, pl agreed to stay on a little longer. Def pressured pl to give him a set day, and pl met with his employer and they decided on Feb. 1; this gave def only a few days warning. Def was going abroad but started a process of having pl meet workers and take a graphology test, and he started working on a contract, but the process stalled, and def decided not to hire pl. It took pl a few months to find another job, in a different field with similar pay but worse conditions. He is suing for lost income and future earning power (he reduced his claim to 33,000 shekels on technical grounds). Def claims that he rejected pl because pl made a bad impression on several workers by improper actions, which confirmed the graphologist’s warning. He never formally hired pl, as they did not sign a contract, and so pl was silly to quit his previous job. In any case, he could have fired pl with minimal notice.

 

Ruling: The first question is whether def has responsibility to pay for not following through with his stated intention to hire pl. Even if one only asked a worker to work and he did not start, if he would have been working for someone else if not for the offer and now he cannot find a replacement job, he has to pay (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 333:1-2). According to most, this is a special type of damage payment (see S’ma 333:8; K’tzot Hachoshen 333:2). However, this is only when there was full agreement that he would be working, which def denies existed here.

In beit din, def stated that even though he wanted pl to meet the staff and take a graphology to meet him, the job offer was final. The graphologist was needed to determine which position he should be given. Although there was a disagreement as to which branch of the chain pl would work at (pl did not want to work near his old employer) and his exact job description, these were not deal-breakers. Contrary to def’s claims, there is no law of the land and certainly no halacha that a commitment cannot be complete without a contract.

Def pressured pl to bring his employment to its final stages, and it is unreasonable to expect him to receive an exact date for leaving while maintaining the ability to stay on. Def said that he did not want to make things fully final before the contract was made and did not want to waste 750 shekels for a lawyer to draft it before he made final preparations. However, it is unreasonable to have pl give up a stable job before his assurance is final. It is also possible that having pl come to get to know other workers was considered the beginning of work, which also obligates def.

Next time we will see how to determine the amount of pay.

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