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Shabbat Parashat Naso 5780

P'ninat Mishpat: Believing the Worker about What Work he Did part II

(based on ruling 71071 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl), who led a staff of workers, was hired by the defendant (=def), an organization, to help in the realms of public relations/publications, fund raising, and procuring grants. Pl sent def a contract stating the areas of work and payment and asked them to sign. According to the contract, pl would send itemized reports of the work and get paid by the hour. Def never signed, but pl started working, after further discussion, and got paid the first month according to hours reported. After that month, def stopped paying, arguing that during the time pl claimed his staff worked, they did not do things they were supposed to. Specifically, pl was supposed to send grant requests to a few institutions; instead, they charged for using much of the time for making lists of grant-giving foundations, and this was done for other of pl’s clients. Pl claims that def approved this and that it was agreed he would be believed about the work done.


Ruling: [Last time we saw that the unsigned contract does not obligate def to believe pl about how much he worked in a manner that makes him deserve pay but that once def did pay based on pl’s report, he cannot ask for it back with the claim of a mistake.]

Can pl ask for pay for work for which he was paid by a different employer? The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 333:5) says that a teacher may not do other work at the same time he is teaching, but the explanation given is that it affects the quality of the work. This implies that otherwise he would be allowed to be paid for two things done at the same time. It should be even clearer in a case like this where the work he did was the same one that is desired by two different people. [Ed. note- one can distinguish between getting paid for the job, where the important thing is whether someone received the service he requested, as opposed to here where he is being paid for putting in time, and he did not put in time for this employer.] See Pitchei Choshen (Sechirut 7:11) who says that unless it takes away from the efficacy, one can get paid twice for saying the same Kaddish for more than one deceased. There is no reason to think that in this case, def suffered from the list being made for others as well. It is even clearer here since def knew that pl worked for other institutions, and he paid without inquiring whether the lists had been prepared for someone else as well.

A claim was raised that pl is only a conduit for payment between def and the workers that pl had doing the work for him, to whom def should actually be directly obligated. However, this is not so, as not all of the per-hour charge that pl was promised did he give to the workers. This demonstrates that there is one obligation that def had with pl and another that pl had with his workers.

The rest of the ruling went through all of the detailed per-hour work description, determining for which hours def owed pl. The final determination is that def owes an additional 4,821shekels beyond what he already paid.

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