Mr. Kahn enjoys reading the Business Halacha articles with his family at the Shabbos table. The recent article of parashos Matos/Masei about prompt payment to a car mechanic raised some questions that elicited lively debate. After Shabbos, Mr. Kahn sent the following email to Rabbi Dayan:
- If the mechanic who actually repaired the car wasn’t Jewish, does b’yomo titen scharo apply to paying the Jewish owner of the car shop?
- If the mechanic was Jewish, presumably the owner would have to pay him promptly, unless he was on a fixed salary.
- You may be interested in the following real case, where a Jewish consultant was in Vancouver, and we consulted by Zoom. Do I have to pay him before sunset where I live or in Vancouver, three hours later?
“Indeed, these points require elucidation,” Rabbi Dayan said to himself. The Rav responded to the questions:
“What if the car shop owner and/or mechanic were non-Jewish?”
The mitzvos associated with prompt payment apply to a Jewish employee, although a non-Jewish employee should also be paid according to his contractual terms. In the case of a car shop, your financial arrangement is with the owner, so prompt payment depends on him, whereas the mechanic’s wages are the owner’s responsibility, according to his terms of employment.
Thus, if the owner is Jewish, the mitzvos of prompt payment apply, even if the mechanic himself was non-Jewish, and vice versa.
However, some write that if the owner is not involved in doing the labor or actively overseeing it, he is not considered an employee (and it is more like a sale), and the mitzvos regarding prompt payment to a worker would not apply to him (see Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 9:).
“Is there a difference whether the wages were based on an hourly rate or a flat rate for the job?”
A worker for an hourly rate is generally considered a po’el, whereas a flat-rate employee is generally considered a kablan. Most poskim assume that the mitzvos of prompt payment apply also to a kablan (C.M. 339:6).
However, if the employee holds the item until payment (as typical with dry cleaners and the like), these mitzvos do not apply, since the items then serve as collateral in his hands (Sma 339:10; Pischei Teshuva 339:2).
“If the employee works in another time zone, does prompt payment follow the time zone of the employer or employee?”
“This issue is not found explicit in classical poskim. The verse in Devarim (24:15) focuses on the employee: “In his day you shall pay his wages; the sun should not set upon him, for he is poor, and towards it he is longing….” On the other hand, the verse in Vayikra (19:12) seemingly focuses on the employer: “A worker’s wages should not stay overnight with you.”
From a logical perspective, the rationale of the mitzvah also supports following the time zone of the employee, since he is eagerly awaiting his wages. On the other hand, since the mitzvah is incumbent on the employee, there is logic that the time should depend on his location.
(It is also possible that we should be stringent to follow the earlier time zone, or lenient to follow the later one.)
HaRav Wosner, zt”l, (Shevet Halevi 7:232:1) rules that presumably the mitzvos depend on the worker’s location. Thus, if someone in Israel works in the evening for an employer in America, where it is still day, bal talin applies to pay by the employee’s morning. In the reverse case, an American employee working in the afternoon for an Israeli employer, b’yomo titen scharo applies to pay by sunset in America. Of course, this is only if the employee expects to be paid immediately despite the distant location (C.M. 339:9-10).
However, Rav Kanievsky is cited (Halacha Berurah, Hil. Sechirus Poalim 339:37) that the employer does not violate if the time of payment hasn’t arrived in his location.
Verdict: The mitzvos associated with prompt payment apply to a Jewish employee, even a kablan. Some poskim write that we follow the time zone of the employee.