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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5784

P'ninat Mishpat: Was New Principal Properly Compensated? part I

(based on ruling 82124 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The defendant (=def) hired the plaintiff (=pl), an experienced educator, to start a girls’ high school. Her responsibilities included months of recruiting and then serving as the principal. There was a written contract between them. Pl failed to recruit the minimum number of students to be a recognized school that receives government funding, but def opened the school anyway. Pl did not find a full staff of teachers, and therefore she was a major teacher in the school. Towards the end of the first year, after pl did some recruitment for the next year, def fired her. [We will deal with various elements of the dispute separately.] Pl received 8,300 NIS a month of gross salary, but demands 9,000 NIS net salary, which she claims she was promised. She also demands salary for teaching, which she was not envisioned to do, and claims that it should be according to the pay scale and incentives she had received previously. Def responds that pl was paid slightly more than agreed upon in the contract and cannot expect to be paid more, considering the school’s size and lack of funding. 

 

Ruling: The first issue to determine is whether the sides’ signed agreement in the beginning of their relationship is binding. Pl claims that def said they needed a written agreement to present to people of interest, but it was not meant to be binding. Such a claim is possible (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 205) but must be proven, which pl failed to do. Furthermore, written communications between the sides show that pl treated the agreement as a serious one with which she needed to reckon. Among the indications of its seriousness is the fact that certain clauses were changed according to pl’s demands. It is irrelevant that some of pl’s demands were not accepted.  

The agreement sets a salary for pl in 5780, but regarding 5781, it just lists her as being paid for 10 hours weekly, without mentioning a rate of pay. This amount of time does not reflect pl’s work as a principal and a teacher. The sides agree that she deserved to be paid for 21 hours weekly. Their disagreement is that def says he agreed to pay her 90 NIS an hour and pl demands 109 NIS, which is what she deserved to receive, based on her seniority as a teacher, according to the national standard agreement. Def has documented that he sent his offer of 90 NIS, which rounded out to 8,300 NIS gross monthly salary in an email that pl admits reading but denies agreeing to.

The Rama (CM 81:7) rules that if someone knows that others are expecting pay from him and he is quiet, it is taken as his acceptance of the terms, indicating that pl’s lack of response should be deemed as acceptance. Even if one does not think the Rama applies to our case, when the worker, after learning of the employer was willing to pay proceeds to work, he is not entitled to more than the employer agreed to. The Taz (CM 221:1) says that if a potential employer promised a high salary but then backed out and lowered it before work ensued and the workers were quiet about it and later started work, they receive the lower amount. Therefore, even if def had agreed to a higher salary, pl can no longer demand it.

We continue next time with other elements of disagreement.

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