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Mrs. Stern was interviewing for a job.

The employer was impressed with Mrs. Stern; the discussion moved on to work expectations and salary.


“What are the hours?” asked Mrs. Stern.

“The hours are 9 to 3,” replied the employer.

“The morning is a bit of a problem for me,” said Mrs. Stern. “My husband leaves early in the morning. Till I get the kids out to school, and then travel, I can’t guarantee getting here before 9:30 to 10.”

“As I said, regular hours begin at 9,” replied the employer, “but if you’re here by 10 that’s okay, as long as you fill in the hours on the other end.

After some negotiations about salary, Mrs. Stern and the employer came to an agreement. They drafted a contract in which the hours were listed as 9 to 3.

During the first few months, Mrs. Stern arrived in the morning when she could, anywhere between 9 and 10.

“You often arrive at 9:30 or later,” the employer said one day. “As you know, work begins at 9, and it’s important during the next few months that you arrive on time.”

“But in the interview, you said that if I get here by 10, that’s okay,” replied Mrs. Stern.

“The contract clearly states hours from 9 to 3,” insisted the employer. “The contract is what’s binding. Even if I said then that it would be okay, that was to placate you, so long as it didn’t make a difference, but it doesn’t grant you rights beyond the contract when I need you at 9.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Mrs. Stern argued. “I raised the issue from the beginning and took the job based on your assurance!”

“But you didn’t respond that this was a necessary condition for you,” replied the employer, “and it didn’t make its way into the contract.”

The two came to Rabbi Dayan and asked:

“Was the employer’s statement a binding condition?”

“The Gemara (B.M. 55b-56a),” replied Rabbi Dayan, “teaches that certain verbal offers of placation are considered merely words of enticement (pitumei mili) and not binding conditions when not stipulated or reiterated by the interested party (Rema C.M. 207:1; Sma 207:3).

“For example, if the seller states of his own initiative that he will take care of any problem with the item even beyond the warranty period, and the buyer does not reiterate this condition, we consider it as merely placating words that things will be okay, not a binding condition (Sma 207:2).

“Many Rishonim explain, though, that this applies when the deal is already in its advanced stages, so that presumably the buyer would follow through regardless, even without this condition. However, when the offer is mentioned from the outset, the buyer can claim that he relied on it when agreeing to the deal, and the condition is binding.

“Rema further rules that if the parties verbally stipulated a condition and then drafted a simple contract, it was done with consideration of the stipulation.

“The poskim qualify, though, that this applies only when the parties followed through ongoing with the deal (asukim b’oso inyan). However, if they broke off and then resumed, we cannot necessarily assume that the deal was done on this condition if not reiterated when completing the deal. Furthermore, if the contract mentioned other conditions and omitted this one, we presume that it was omitted intentionally and that the parties chose to neglect it (Pischei Choshen, Kinyanim 20:3[8]; Mishmeres Shalom 207:[12]).

Rivash (#476) also rules that verbal conditions between the employer and employee are binding, even if not mentioned in the written contract.

“Thus, even if the condition was not mentioned in the contract,” said Rabbi Dayan, “it is binding in many situations, but not all, depending on some of the factors outlined above. In the context of the scenario mentioned above, it seems binding.”

Verdict: Verbal conditions to placate can also be binding, even if not mentioned in the contract, but not always, depending on the specific context, such as whether stated from the outset.


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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 [email protected]. 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 protected].