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Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.
This Issue is lovingly dedicated by the grandchildren of
Moshe Yaakov ben Faige Devorah Burak
Please daven for his full and speedy recovery.
CASE 138: Kenny’s Kebab House
Kenny’s Kosher Kebab House was a fast growing enterprise in the downtown business district of Columbus, Ohio. The Kebab House boasted two large executive banquet rooms, numerous private dinettes, and a general eating area. The friendly ambiance, professional service, and mouth-watering carte du jour drew an impressive crowd of satisfied customers. Nevertheless, the restaurant would experience seasonal ups and downs.
With the arrival of mid-winter vacation, sixteen-year-old Bernie Stein took a job at the Kebab House to help his parents cover the bills, as they were experiencing financial difficulties. He was a hard and responsible worker and took his job seriously. Bernie was happy to be able to help his parents help him.
February 15th was payday and Bernie was looking forward to receive his hard-earned $500 paycheck. Dennis too was looking forward to take home his bimonthly check of $3,000.
Kenny, eager to pay his workers on time, spent the afternoon in his office balancing his books. Time was ticking and Kenny was up against the wall. He was out of meat and had to place a $5,000 meat order to be delivered before dinnertime. A $200 electric bill had to be paid. Dennis and Bernie were both expecting their paychecks, an additional $3500.
Kenny broke out in a sweat when he realized that he had but $3,000 available.
What should Kenny do?
What is the law?
Please email us with your comments and answers at email@example.com.
Read next week's issue for the answer!
LAST WEEK’S CASE
CASE 137: Grandma's Apples
Grandma Bertha Levy of Toronto was beloved by all of her neighbors. Though her own grandchildren lived far from her Downsview home, Bertha treated all of the neighborhood kids as if they were her actual grandchildren. Grandma would bake granola cookies with them, read them books, teach them to knit, and most importantly, listen to them talk about their experiences. Grandma Levy was never too busy to lend a listening ear.
On Grandmas front lawn grew a beautiful apple tree. Grandma would rock on her chair in its shade and watch the children play hide-and-seek around the tree. Autumn had arrived and the apples were ripe.
“Selma dear,” she called out to the ten year old girl with long braids reading under the tree. “For every bag of apples you pick, Grandma will give you a quarter.”
Selma was a great apple picker and knew the tree well. She climbed all the way up the tree and after twenty minutes, she managed to fill seven bags of apples.
“Selma, you did a fantastic job!” exclaimed Grandma. “Come inside and let me pay you before the day is done. Then we can begin peeling the apples for your favorite apple strudel.”
Grandma scurried over to her pocketbook, looked for seven quarters, but could not find enough change. She had only five quarters and a fifty-dollar bill.
What should Grandma Bertha do?
What is the law?
[Submitted by Rabbi Avi Hess: Member, Fellow-Yesharim Research Center - Jerusalem, Israel]
We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.
If change could be obtained with only a minor inconvenience or financial loss, or if Grandma could borrow the money, she would be required to do so in order to pay Selma on time. However, if it would involve a considerable financial loss or inconvenience, she can pay Selma another time without transgressing the negative prohibitions mentioned last week (see Issue 36). However, she would still lose out on the opportunity to fulfill the positive commandment of paying workers on time [Deuteronomy 24:15].
An employer is obligated to pay his or her worker on time regardless of the amount of money due [Ahavas Chessed 9:3] or the age of the employee. Adults must take heed when promising children sweets or incentives for performing a service to reward them in the prescribed timely fashion [Ahavas Chessed 9:5 Nesiv Hachessed 16].
An employer is required to incur a nominal loss in order to pay employees in the prescribed timely-fashion [ibid. Nesiv Hachessed 21; Pischei Choshen 9:16]. Additionally, if possible, an employer is required to borrow money or sell merchandise in order to attain the funds in a timely fashion (see Issue 36).
While it is irresponsible to engage a worker without ensuring that funds will be available at the appropriate time [Ahavas Chessed 9:9], the prohibition in the Torah is against withholding accessible funds. In a case where paying on time would involve a considerable financial loss or inconvenience, the funds are not considered accessible and the prohibition would not apply [Pischei Choshen 9:16].
Grandma is obligated to compensate Selma fully before the day is done. She is equally required to incur a nominal financial loss or small inconvenience in order to procure the appropriate change. If she fails to do so, she would forfeit the opportunity to fulfill the positive commandment of paying workers on time, transgress the two negative biblical prohibitions of postponing wages due, and violate the rabbinic prohibition as well (see Issue 36).
Alternatively, Grandma can borrow change from a neighbor or ask someone else to advance payment to Selma before the day is done [Ahavas Chessed 9:7] (she would probably not have merchandise that she could sell in order to pay on time if she did, she would be required to do so).
However, if Grandma would delay payment in order to avoid a considerable financial loss or inconvenience she would not transgress the biblical and rabbinical negative prohibitions of temporarily withholding wages due. Nonetheless, she would still forfeit the opportunity to fulfill the positive commandment to pay a worker on time.
[Answered by the Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]
The Torah commands us to pay our employees on time:
An employee who finishes the job at night can expect payment by dawn [Leviticus 19:13].
An employee who finished the job during the day can expect payment before dusk [Deuteronomy 24:15].
This applies to rental fees as well [Choshen Mishpat 339:1].
Follow the next few weeks for an exciting series on "Timely Payments".
[Choshen Mishpat 339]
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The Fellow-Yesharim Research Center, located in the heart of Jerusalem, is presently studying the second phase of "Unsolicited Work".
Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.
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