The day camp was ready to go home for the night. “Remember that tomorrow we are having an overnight trip,” the head counselor announced to the campers. “Make sure that you all bring the necessary clothes and items listed on the permission slip.”
He then turned to the counselor, Yoram. “We want three extra counselors to help supervise,” he said. “We already have two. If you have a friend who wants to come for the trip, we will pay him $200 for the trip.”
“I have a friend, Effy, who I think would be interested,” said Yoram. “I’ll ask him when I get home.”
When Yoram got home that evening, he went over to Effy: “My day camp is looking for extra supervision for an overnight trip,” he said. “Would you like to come? They’re paying $250 for the trip.”
“Let me think about it,” Effy replied. “I also have to check with my parents that we don’t have anything planned for the family. I’ll give you a call in an hour.”
Effy called back an hour later. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’m happy to come.”
“Great,” said Yoram. “I’ll let the head counselor know.”
At the end of the trip, the three additional counselors went into the office to pick up their payment from the director. Effy received a check for $200. He looked at the director funny. “When Yoram asked me about coming,” he said, “he told me that I would get $250!”
“Absolutely not,” the director replied. “We said $200.That’s what we gave the other two counselors also.”
“But Yoram told me $250,” he said. “You asked him to procure my services, so that’s what you have to pay.”
“He did?” said the director. “Let’s call him in.”
The director announced over the loudspeaker: “Yoram, please come the office now.”
Yoram came two minutes later. “How much did you tell Yoram we would give him?” asked the director.
“I told him $250,” Yoram said. “I forgot what you said.”
“We never agreed to that,” the director said to Effy. “We asked Yoram to find a friend, but never authorized him to decide the salary.”
Effy then turned to Yoram. “If they pay me only $200, then you owe me the remaining $50!”
“I never accepted any responsibility for payment,” argued Yoram. “You knew you would get paid by the camp. You should have confirmed the salary with the camp.”
“We’ve got an issue here,” said the director. “We said $200, but Yoram told Effy $250, which he was not authorized to do.”
“I’m not going home till we settle this,” said Effy. “I came to work and am entitled to my proper salary.”
“I suggest we call Rabbi Dayan,” said the director. “Let him decide what we should do.”
The director picked up the phone and dialed Rabbi Dayan. “We asked a counselor to hire a friend for a trip for $200, but he told him $250. How much do we owe? Does the counselor owe him anything?”
“You owe the friend the going rate for the job,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The counselor who misled him does not owe him anything, but the friend has rightful complaints against him.”
“Can you expand a little on this?” asked the director.
“The Gemara [B.M. 76a] teaches that when an agent overstates salary terms to an employee, the employer pays the going market rate,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “This is because the agent, who had no authority to negotiate the terms and misrepresented the employer, loses his status as an agent. Since you only agreed to pay $200, whereas the friend accepted the job with the understanding of $250, there was no valid contractual agreement between you. Thus, the employee gets paid as a worker who did not make any arrangement with the employer, which is the going market rate.” (C.M. 332:1)
“What if the worker who expected to get paid a higher salary did a better job?” asked the director. “Similar to, for example, a contractor who used higher quality materials or put more effort into the finishing. It’s not fair that he should get the going rate for a standard job.”
“That is true,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If the quality of his job is clearly worth more, then the employer – who received the benefit of superior quality – would have to pay the value of such work.” (Shach 332:8)
“Why does the counselor not owe anything?” asked the director. “And what did you say about ‘rightful complaints?’ ”
“The counselor does not owe anything, since he clearly indicated he takes no personal responsibility for the salary,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “However, the friend has a rightful complaint against him, since he could have sought a higher paying job had he known the true salary.” (SM”A 332:4)
About the Author: Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail email@example.com.
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