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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel- Pekudei 5769
Maintaining Certain Conditions Under a New Agreement
(Based on Halacha Psuka 54- A Condensation of Piskei Din Rabbaniim, VIII, pp. 112-123)
Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) work for the defendants (=def). In the past, pl gave significant bi-annual bonuses for the chagim. A new employment agreement was finalized, increasing the workers’ wages. The contract does not mention the bonuses. Pl say they are still supposed to get them, whereas def say that the new agreement replaces all the old provisions, including the bonuses.
Ruling: The Rivash (478) discusses a community that exempted its chazan from taxes during his first year of service. When they extended his contract, that issue was not addressed. The Rivash ruled that if the exemption during the first year was explicit, even if it lacked witnesses, it stands unless there is evidence that it was rescinded. He explains that there is no need for an explicit kinyan on the conditions of employment; rather, whatever conditions are presently assumed are fully binding as it is. The fact that some new conditions were implemented does not mean that old ones were dropped.
It is possible, though, that the Rivash’s logic applies only when there were not intensive negotiations over a new agreement. After negotiations, we may say that all conditions are likely to change and whatever is included in the new agreement nullifies that which was in the old one. The Levush (Choshen Mishpat 333:8) applies the Rivash’s logic even to cases where there were new negotiations. However, the Shach (333:42) says that if a new salary amount was mentioned and the old conditions were not addressed, they are no longer binding. The Chemdat Shlomo says that the Shach discounted the original conditions if any changes entered in the original agreement. According to the Shach, pl should ostensibly no longer be entitled to the bonuses.
However, we can make the following distinction. The Shach discussed a case where the employers could have ended the employment and, therefore, there is nothing to make the earlier conditions continue. However, in our case, def could not fire pl or rescind their rights. In such a case, the Shach would agree that we do not suspend the original rights. Furthermore, the raises that many of the plaintiffs received were only around 10% of their salary. It does not make sense that under those circumstances, we would expect that, without stipulation, they regressed regarding a major bi-annual bonus. Therefore, beit din understood that the new pay arrangement was intended only to streamline the complicated pay system, which included different levels of overtime, and not change their accepted practice of bonuses. Another piece of logic to continue the bonuses is that they may be viewed as a [binding] present to deal with expenses of the chagim, not salary. If so, the new salary negotiations should not be expected to address such extraneous matters and the obligation remains.
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R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
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