What's a nice way to say "You're fired"?
Q. A few months ago I hired a woman who is a very nice, very good person, but just hasn't mastered the work. She costs me more than she is worth. Now that business has slowed, can I take this opportunity to "trim the workforce" and lay her off?
A. It is generally ethical to fire someone for any reason related to their ongoing job performance. It's not necessary to wait for a slowdown; on the contrary, then it may be more difficult for her to find another position. What is important is that performance evaluations are fair and that workers whose performance is unsatisfactory are given a reasonable opportunity to improve it. The obligation to give workers fair warning of their deficiencies is mentioned in the Talmud.
Workers not only have rights, they also have feelings which need to be respected.
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Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir is Research Director of the Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology. Rabbi Dr. Meir received his PhD in Economics from MIT, and previously studied at Harvard. He subsequently studied at various Israeli yeshivot, and received his ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Prior to moving to Israel, he worked at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration. Rabbi Dr. Meir is also a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Jerusalem College of Technology and has published several articles on the subjects of modern business and economics and Jewish law. He is also the author of Meaning in Mitzvot, an OU.ORG feature.
The Jewish Ethicist
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