Audio Special: Rabbi Jonathan Ziring

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by Joel Rich

Series Description:

As work has moved remote for many, and others are hesitant to return to their jobs for a variety of reasons, the world is rethinking what it means to be an employer or employee. In this series, we will explore a number of topics that address the nature of the employer-employee relationship, highlighting the rights and responsibilities of both sides. Among others, we will address the halakhic perspective on multiple employment, unionization, strikes, quitting, and paying workers on time.


My comment on one issue:

This particular example is one that is nuanced depending on the kind of organization you’re dealing with. For example, in professional service organizations where you want a feeling of camaraderie and going the extra mile for the organization, I would have to have a strong conversation with a supervisor or manager who busted his employees’ chops about taking pens and pencils or paper home, especially since we will expect them to give the extra effort at home when we need it   

Even the Internal Revenue Service has a De minimis exception.

Of course, if an employer took home reams of paper or cartons of pens for resale, that would be a different issue.

On the other hand, organizations that are on a paper-thin profit margin might well fire an employee taking a cup of coffee

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 1 of 6


From Torah and early halachic sources the responsibility of the employee to the employer is extreme. How is this affected by societal changes in norms?

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 2 of 6

The employer can’t delay wage payments. Based on the spirit of this law, the Chofetz Chaim developed a theory of employee rights. The Torah looks to balance the rights of the employer and the employee.

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 3 of 6

The gemara records the rights of artisans to form guilds with by-laws. Perhaps this is the source of the halacha concerning unions in Jewish law (or maybe the source is the ketoret guild {I think not}). However, the gemara also has a role for an adam chashuv (talmid chacham?) in determining rules/wages. How far does that go?


Also discussed – strikes, especially in critical jobs.

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 4 of 6

The halacha is that a worker can back out of an employment agreement but may be liable for damages if it’s shortly before the job starts. He also generally gets to keep a lost object found while on the job. Are the employer/employee rights/obligations symmetric? How far do we go to show the employee is not a slave? (Is he selling himself or his time?)

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 5 of 6

What are the employees’ (and employers’) responsibilities when there are bad actors? Consider arvut (we are responsible for each other rebuke), lfnei iver/msayea (can’t do without our support/action – don’t enable), machzik ovrei aveira (don’t provide post-act support), and avoid chanifa (false flattery-don’t support a toxic culture).

Navigating the Employer-Employee Relationship, Part 6  of 6

How do we balance whistle blowing with confidentiality halacha (e.g. bal tomar, lashon hora and lo taamod)? Figuring out the boundaries is complex – anonymous whistle blowing is a last resort. Balancing the various stakeholder’s interests is necessary but not easily done.


About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.

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