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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 39 - It is Snow My Business - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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3/19/10

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table.

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:

Rabbi and Mrs. Yoel Neumann, Baltimore, M.D.

Please pray for the good health and speedy recovery of:

Moshe Yaakov ben Faige Devora Burak

Dedication opportunities are available.

To become a part of Fellow-Yesharim's ongoing efforts to promote ethics awareness throughout society, please send an email to weekly@projectfellow.org.

CASE 140: It is Snow My Business!

Record-breaking blizzards throughout the Northeast brought Baltimore, Maryland to its knees. Saturday night's snowfall blanketed Dorset Place, a quiet and friendly side street between Falstaff and Labyrinth Road, in thirty inches of snow.

David Levy, owns a four-wheel drive and serves as a first responder and medic for the local volunteer Ambulance corps. David needed access from his driveway to the main intersection. At midnight, David hooked up his plow to the front of his SUV and spent two-hours clearing a path from his driveway, down the entire side street, straight to the Dorset - Falstaff intersection. Being a good neighbor, he decided to plow his neighbor's driveways as well. He spent an extra two hours doing so.

The next morning David posed the following two questions: Do my neighbors owe me for plowing their driveways? May I ask them to jointly pay me for plowing the street? On one hand, I worked hard and late hours to clear the street for them. On the other hand, the city's snowplows would have cleared our street by Monday morning. My neighbors might argue that they could have waited for the city to plow the street. Additionally, concerning their driveways, there might be something else to consider; the entire city was under a stage 3 snow emergency. Only emergency vehicles were allowed on the city streets! Even if their driveways are plowed, where would they be going?

By Tuesday night, the street was filled again with a fresh blanket of deep snow.

What is the law?

[Submitted by: Mr. David Hess, Baltimore MD]

Please email us with your comments and answers at weekly@projectfellow.org.

Read next week's issue for the answer!

LAST WEEK'S CASE

CASE 139: Minor Issues

With the economy crumbling, Abe Schwartzman's automobile repossession business in Cincinnati, OH was booming. With banks calling non-stop for him to repossess collateral vehicles, Abe decided to open up a second office in nearby Louisville, KY. Abe hired Harry and Fred, two unemployed neighbors, as drivers; and eleven-year-old Keith to do some basic filing while school was out for winter break. Abe's brother-in-law Michael managed the new office.

While the Louisville office had an incredibly busy first week, Abe had not yet received most of the payments due from the banks for the repossessions executed; and due to initial startup costs, had very little cash on hand in time for payday. He owed Harry and Fred each $650, Keith $200, and Michael $1,500. With a payroll of $3000, Abe had but $2,000 to spare.

Little Keith overheard Abe and Michael discussing this dilemma and approached Abe privately.

"I heard that you are a bit tight with funds this week," said Keith. "Being that I don't have any personal expenses, I don't mind if you just wait until next week to pay me."

What must Abe do?

What is the law?

The Answer

We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.

In the meantime, he pays Harry and Fred $650 each; and his brother-in-law- Michael, $800. He must pay Michael's remaining balance as well as Keith's paycheck as soon as he procures the funds.

Detailed Explanation

Minor Issues implicates the following six laws.

• A debtor must divide the limited resources equally among all creditors of equal importance [Choshen Mishpat 104: 10, Ahavas Chessed 9 Nesiv Hachessed 22]. (See Issue 38)

• When funds are limited, a poor worker receives payments before one who is not needy. [Ahavas Chessed 10:8] (Note: A poor employee, who is embarrassed to take handouts, precedes a worker who has already accustomed himself/herself to accept charity. [ibid.])

• When issuing loans or allocating charity from limited personal funds, one is required to aid needy relatives prior to helping strangers [Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 251:3]. Nevertheless, as each employee rightfully earns his or her due wages, one employee's kinship to the employer does not entitle him or her to receive payment prior to fellow employees [Ahavas Chessed 10:9].

• An employer will not transgress the negative prohibitions of postponing due wages (see Issue 36) if the employee genuinely chooses not to demand the payment on the due date [Ahavas Chessed 9:11]. Warning: An employee's shyness or lack of assertiveness in no way indicates such a pardon [Nesiv Hachessed 9:29].

• While there is room for discussion, whether or not a child has the legal capacity to pardon a due debt completely, [See Other People's Money by Rabbi Pinchas Bodner, from RMF and Mishp'tei Hatorah by Rabbi Tzvi Schpitz] a child, like an adult, has the right to opt not to demand timely payment. If such a move is genuine, the employer can be absolved from transgressing the negative prohibitions of delaying due payment.

• If payment was delayed due to a lack of funds, the employer must pay his or her due wages as soon as funds become available [Ahavas Chessed 9:12].

Application

Although Keith is a minor (under 13), he has the legal right not to demand timely payment from Abe. Abe owes $3000 in wages and has but $2000 available. He will have to postpone some payment to some or all of his workers. Michael's relationship to Abe does not grant him the right to receive his wages in full before his colleagues. Instead, Abe must first care for Harry and Fred - his two poor workers who were initially unemployed. Once he pays Harry and Fred, Abe will then allocate the remaining funds to Michael. Abe will pay Michael's remaining balance as well as Keith's paycheck as soon as funds become available.

The result would be that Harry and Fred receive $650 each. Abe forwards the remaining $800 to Michael. Accordingly, Harry and Fred receive their respective paychecks in full, while Michael receives but $800 for the time being. Abe will pay Michael's remaining balance as well as Keith's paycheck as soon as funds become available.

[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]

Comments or questions? Have a case to submit? Please send us an email at weekly@projectfellow.org.

The Fellow-Yesharim Research Center, located in the heart of Jerusalem, is presently studying the second phase of "Unsolicited Work".



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