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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim 5779

P'ninat Mishpat: Firing with Insufficient Warning? part II

(based on ruling 75033 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) worked for the defendant (=def), an NPO, in 2012-2013, doing work on their website. In 2014, def asked pl to return in a different and expanded role to help def out of financial woes. Pl explained that he needed work stability and wrote a contract that required def to give him 60 days warning before terminating employment. Toward the beginning of pl’s tenure, def had their director replaced. Since pl worked closely with him, he met with the head of def (=hdef) and asked about his future. Hdef assured pl that he would not be fired. As time went on and pl felt excluded from decisions, he asked to meet with the new director (=ndir), but this took weeks to happen. Finally, on 29.12.14, during pl’s first 6 months of employment, ndir fired pl and told him he might not get paid for that month. Pl is suing for salary for 60 days after the notification, for travel expenses over the whole period per the contract, and lawyer’s fee. Def said that the contract is to be read that the need for 60 days’ notice is only if pl makes it past the six-month trial period. Also, pl does not deserve to get paid for days at the end when he did not work. Regarding travel expenses, pl did not give in his hours until the end of the period, and def would not have had him travel so much had they known the expense.     

 

Ruling: [Last time we saw that def was required to give 60 days’ notice. Now we must determine which specific charges are due and how they are to be calculated.]

There is evidence that pl did do some work after the time he received the letter of termination. In any case, since ndir had indicated that pl might not get paid for the period even if he did work, pl is due the salary until what should have been the 60-day notice, as he was not required to work at all under such circumstances.

Regarding the pay for travel, def did not explain how they would have reduced pl’s travel had they known how much it was amounting to. They certainly could not have reduced it enough to justify their broad withholding of compensation (even for part of the first three months, during which they had no complaints). Thus, it appears that def are just trying to extricate themselves from an agreed upon charge. If def wanted to limit pl’s traveling, they should have told him so in advance. The outstanding amount due for travel expenses is 5,400 shekels.

Concerning legal expenses, although usually each side pays for his own, in a case like this, in which beit din views def as acting in bad faith, they are obligated to pay pl’s expenses. However, the claim of 5,000 shekels expenses has not been substantiated and seems exaggerated. Based on our right to obligate for indirect damage and based on compromise, we obligate def in 2,500 shekels of legal fees.
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