Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar| 5764
Maintaining a Worker Whose Job has been Phased Out - Condensed from Piskei Din Rabbani’im vol. III, pp. 91-96
Case: A worker (plaintiff = pl)worked as a cleaner in a religious school for 12 years. Over time, the school was placed under the umbrella of the Chinuch Atzmai school system (defendant = def). The worker’s salary was then paid by the locality through a special budget arrangement. Still later, the locality assumed full responsibility for cleaning services at the school, but it refused to hire pl because of his age. Despite the fact that another worker was doing the cleaning, pl continued to come to work to clean. Def said that they would temporarily pay pl from a special charitable fund and try to help him find a job. After time, the fund ran out and no job was found. Def told pl that they would be able to continue paying him, but pl continued anyway. Pl nowdemands back pay and to continue to be employed.
Ruling: In general, an employer can end the employment of a worker at the end of a period of employment. When the period is not stipulated, it normally depends on the wording of the financial arrangement. If his salary is quoted by the month, every month is a new period. However, ample warning must be given to the worker to seek new employment and in a place where it is customary not to replace a worker without specific justification, that standard is binding (based on Chazon Ish, Bava Kama 23:1).
Another factor is the fact that the work was done for a public institution. Appointees to public positions of authority or distinction are not supposed to be replaced without due cause (see Rambam, Klei Hamikdash 4:21 and more). There is a minority opinion that even a simple public servant cannot be replaced as long as he is fulfilling his job satisfactorily, because of the higher standards of social justice expected of the public (Even Haezel, Sechirut 10:7).
However, even if we would accept the claims mentioned against def, they are not relevant in this case. That is because def never employed pl, whose salary was paid originally by the specific school and for many years by the locality. In fact, it was the locality, not def, who stopped his employment. The fact that def agreed to use temporary funds to extend pl’s employmentdoes not obligate them further. Likewise, def is not obligated to pay for the work done after the funding stopped, because they told pl they were not going to pay for any further services. There is a machloket about a case where one provides useful services for another after being warned he will not be paid, whether the recipient has to pay according to the benefit he received. However, in our case, there was no benefit, as the locality had already employed someone to perform the same services on the school’s behalf.
However, there is halachic precedent to require the public to go beyond the letter of the law in providing for poor workers who were under their auspices (see Shut Mayim Chayim OC 6). Therefore, we require def to pay 40% of the worker’s salary for a year from the time payments ceased and to help him find another job.
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