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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof: Yes You Should Take Action

Some injustices simply can't be ignored and I'd say this is one of them (see post at imamother, no responses have come in but I think the responses will be interesting). While I tend to let certain things slide when it is my own cheshbon, I feel strongly that when it comes to our children, certain injustices cannot stand and non-payment (or re-negotiated, after the fact partial payment) is one such thing.

As adults, many of us will have to deal with people that are less than yashar and we might choose to certain things slide, oftentimes because we make a calculation that it will cost us more (emotionally, financially, politically, etc) to pursue action. But I believe that as a general rule, I'd say our children need to see that their parents are willing to do whatever it takes to pursue what is right so that 1) our children understand that certain (unfortunately fairly common things) are simply wrong and 2) for the sake of our children's relationship to Torah and Am Yisrael as all of the mi kamocha-lectures cannot undo the damage.

My long time readers might remember a post I wrote based on the chinuch column in the Yated regarding a teacher's accusation that a student asking for payment for babysitting (the next day!) was a form of chutzpah. I find it shameful that children are being brought into shameful cat-and-mouse games of non-payment/late payment that too many adults play. But children? While leadership worries about the internet eroding chinuch (and they have a point!), I'm afraid the initial erosion is in an ethic that is mostly ignored.

I'm certain that pursuing that extra $500 (assuming the first $500 is delivered) is probably a losing proposal should another simple phone call not do the trick. Going to a din Torah over $500 is likely to end up putting the family in the red vis a vis this transaction in the aggregate, although I'm not certain what din Torah fees run (. . . . just basing my assumption on what it cost my friend to have a beit din sit for 1/2 an hour for a get). I hope that if such a thing were to happen to my own children, I would fight tooth and nail to pursue what is owed to them although monetarily it is likely a losing proposal.

Goodluck to the parents and I hope that those that they may have to call as witnesses will understand that this is no time to "turn the other cheek" (a Chrisitian concept that I believe is the opposite of tzedek, tzedek tirdof).

9 comments:

JS said...

Pretty disgusting behavior. You don't promise $1000 for a service, not complain about the service while it is being offered, and then refuse to pay for the service rendered. If she has a legitimate complaint about the girl's service, she should state it clearly. The fact that she initially wanted to be pay absolutely nothing and then "compromised" by agreeing to pay $500 indicates to me that she's just trying to scam this girl. If the service was so bad that it's worthy of $0, I would think she would have said something before the entire holiday was over and it was time for payment.

I wouldn't bother with a beit din. The few times I've heard people avail themselves of it, it didn't go well even though they were in the right.

As for "turn the other cheek," it's a response to the notion of an "eye for an eye." The idea is to not seek vengeance and that when an injustice is done to you, you willingly accept more instead of retaliating. When someone hits you on one cheek, the thinking goes, you should turn to him the other cheek so he can hit you on that one as well. Similarly, if someone steals your jacket, you should offer him your coat, etc.

nuqotw said...

I can't imagine that it would be muttar, but I would tell the Rav who vouched for this family exactly what happened and if anyone asked about my experience working for this family I would not be ashamed to tell the truth. If the family that hired her truly believes it's acceptable to cheat a teenage girl who acted in good faith, they should not be ashamed to have that information told all over town.

tesyaa said...

This is a lot of money. When my kids have been stiffed or poorly paid, my advice to them is not to work with that family again. However, we're talking $20 or $40, not $500.

However, the advice by Imamother posters to use a veiled threat of reporting the employer to the IRS for using undocumented labor or paying off the books is also wrong. The daughter agreed to work off the books; it's disingenuous to now use that against the employers, not to mention it could backfire against the daughter.

I also see that the girl's mother says that the girl mainly wants to warn future employees of this family. That is a goal worth pursuing.

Miami Al said...

All the advice about collecting is 100% on board.

However, $1000 is a cheap but important lesson that everyone needs to learn.

The fact that you share a cultural similarity with someone (in this case, both being Frum), does NOT make them more trustworthy, it makes them LESS trustworthy. Most scams/rip-offs/cons are with people you share an "affinity" with.

The fact that it was a nice Frum family was DOUBLE the reason to get it in writing, not less of a reason to get it in writing.

Sadly, the Frum side of it makes it double-bad. Not only do people prey on people because they can, but the bizarro alternative legal system means you don't even have a meaningful recourse (like small claims court) for small sums. It's the same problem the illegal immigrant community has, there are no laws when you can't go to the police/court of law for redress.

Second valuable less, when doing a fixed length contract, always get part of the money up front.

Those of us that learned these lessons 10+ years older than your daughter lost an extra 0 or so... I trusted a guy on a handshake deal, he was a fellow Jew (I wasn't observant at the time, he was), I figured he has to be honest... it was way more than $1000 that he ran off with and made himself uncollectible for.

Mike S. said...

While both halacha and US law permit employers to discharge employees for failure to properly perform duties, neither permits an employer to keep the worker on the job but refuse to pay the agreed upon salary. This is open and shut. However, unless there is some evidence for the $1000 agreed wage, this will be trouble to enforce in either secular court or a beit din (even ignoring transaction costs), since in both systems the burden of proof on a monetary claim rests with the plaintiff (i.e. if the woman denies agreeing to pay the $1000 and you can't prove it, you lose.)

However, it would seem to be certainly proper to inform the Rosh Yeshivah who provided the reference so that he ceases to provide further references to help this family ensnare future victims. That should be done, however, without slandering the children (i.e. the brattiness of the kids does not effect whether the mother's helper is owed her wage. That is just a gratuitous insult.

Ariella said...

I've dealt with people like this -- also frum. They are utterly despicable people who feel like bigger winners when they make others lose. Another thing -- even if you win in small claims court, as I have, the court does nothing to assure you get paid. So if the people are completely dishonest -- just like the person I had the suit with -- you are still out the money. I'm sure that woman who didn't bother to show up for the small claims court case and so lost by default doesn't care; she still hasn't paid the hundreds she owes.
I've heard that beit din is no guarantee either and that the charges there compare to regular (not small claims) court costs.

tdr said...

I know someone whose worker did a really bad job and even lost that person money through the course of her job. That someone fired her and refused to pay her what he owed her. She took him to Bais Din and they ruled against him and ordered him to pay her.

It seems fairly straightforward what they should do here. That's what Bais Din is for, isn't it?

At the very least they should bring into the picture the Rav of the woman who owes the money. I bet he would be able to convince them to pay.

Anonymous said...

The mother should pursue this with the woman, but probably won't get anywhere. The girl is in a difficult situation, as this woman could slander the girl when it comes to shidduchim if she has no moral conscience. The mother should be quite diplomatic, and bring up the fact of the promise and ask the mother specifically what the problem was with the daughter, and when the woman gives a reason, the mother should inquire why she didn't mention it to the daughter at the time? Why is she only bringing it up at the end of Pesach? Also state it is halachically impermissible to fail to pay a worker. And indicate - again gently - that you will have no choice but to inform the Rosh Yeshiva if the woman does not pay what is owed.

By the way, I do work for nonfrum people and they are so ehrlich! One said to me on the phone, "Congratulations, you did that job and so fast! I'll send you a check, you should get it in a few days." And so I did.

Hearing all this makes me wary of having business dealings with frum people. I have never heard of this type of monkey business.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-Just be careful who you deal with. I've had a few issues with non-Jewish people too, but better, uh, recourse as there aren't the same social implications.