Paying Workers on Time

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  1. Paying workers in a timely fashion is a biblical mitzvah.[1]
  2. The obligation to pay an employee who finishes the work during the day commences at the beginning of the night, and the employee must be paid by dawn. Conversely, if the employee finishes the job at night, the obligation commences at the beginning of the morning, and the employee must be paid by sunset.[2] However, if the employee who works during the day finishes before the day ends, the employee must be paid by sunset. [3]
  3. When the employee earns a salary at the end of agreed upon periods, the employer must pay by that date.[4]
  4. If the employee does not expect or demand the payment at the specified period, the employer is exempt from paying.[5]
  5. If the task has been completed, but the item has not been given to the employer/client, the obligation to pay is not yet in effect until the item is turned over to the employer/client.[6]
  6. Corporations are not subject to the prohibitions of delaying payment.[7] Managers are also not subject to this prohibition unless the wage is being withheld for personal purposes.[8]
  7. Paying by check would not subject one to any violations, unless the employer stipulates payment by cash and that is the norm in that profession.[9]
  8. Partial payments are subject to the prohibition of delaying payment.[10]
  9. If an employer delays payment illegally, the prohibition only applies at that moment and is not continuous. However, the employer still must pay as soon as possible.[11]

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Sources

  1. Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 339:1. The Sema there explains that the Talmud (Bava Metzia 111a) derives this from the verse, “At his day you shall give him his hire, nor shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor and sets his heart upon it; lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it should be sin to you” (Devarim 24: 15). While there are potentially five biblical prohibitions in delaying pay, the Sema notes that the Rambam, Tur, and Shulchan Arukh only list one, as five only apply when one does not plan to pay at all (see 339:2). There is also the verse “the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning” (Vayikra 19:13). Thus this mitzvah is often known as bal talin.It is important to emphasize that the reason for the mitzvah is integral to the mitzvah itself. A guiding factor in this topic should be that people work to make a living, and withholding that living is unfair and immoral, unless, as we will see, the employer and employee operate on consensual terms.
  2. Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 339:3. Although the technical obligation is to pay by dark, since it is not precisely clear when it first gets dark halakhically, it is best to pay by sunset (Rabbi Ari Marburger, Business Halacha, p. 176).
  3. Ahavat Chesed 9:2.
  4. Business Halacha, p. 176.
  5. Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 339:9-10. For example, if the employer is up front that he/she is unable to pay immediately and the employee consents, the employer does not need to pay at the end of the period.
  6. Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 339:6.
  7. Business Halacha, p.184.
  8. Business Halacha, p. 185, based on Mishnas R’ Aharon (Volume 2, Responsa 73:3). Rabbi Marburger notes, though, that a manager is responsible so long as he or she has the ability to pay; the manager need not use personal money if the company funds are not available.
  9. Business Halacha, p. 186-187. There is a discussion among poskim about whether or not the bank has to be open in order for the prohibition of delaying payment to not be in effect (see Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, Halachically Speaking, Volume 4, p. 373-374).
  10. Ahavat Chesed, 9:10
  11. Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 339:8, based on the verse “Say not to your neighbor, Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give, when you have it by you” (Proverbs 3:28).