Lesson # 269 (part two) • Labor Law
There are times when an employer delegates the process of hiring employees to an agent. There are agents who travel to foreign countries to bring workers for industry or to work in agriculture, or there are seasonal employees who follow the harvesting seasons from climate to climate, or there are employment offices setup by employers to hire workers, or there are hiring halls where agents hire employees on behalf of employers. There may be times when the agent deviates from the instructions that the employer gives to him and the employee is not aware that the wages are different from what was told to him by the agent. What are the rights and obligations of the employer, the employee, and the agent?
This lesson also discusses the situation where the employer hires workers to add to those workers who are already working for him and does not discuss the exact wages he will pay them, and the situation where the employer agrees with the employee that he will pay him other than by money and then wants to pay him money. Or the other way around, where he wishes to pay the employee something other than money. There may be an agreement as to what the employer will pay the employee and there may be certain perks that are usually given to the employee; where there is no discussion of such perks but the employer pays the employee more than other employers pay, does this preclude the employee asking for perks?
What if the agent deviates from the employer's instructions as to wages? The employer instructs the agent to hire an employee and to tell him that the wages are $3 an hour. The agent hires the employee and tells him, "I will pay you $4 an hour;' or he tells him work for the employer for $4 an hour, but does not use the words, "The employer will pay you $4 an hour." The employer need pay only $3 an hour and the agent must make up the difference of $1 per hour. There is an opinion that if the prevailing rate is $4 an hour, then the employer must pay the employee $4 an hour.
If the agent states, "The employer will pay $4 an hour," he has deviated from the scope of his employment and is no longer his agent. The employer must pay the customary wage in the community if it is higher than $3 an hour. If there are those in the community who receive $3 an hour and some who receive $4, he need pay only $3.
The employer instructs the agent to hire workers for $4 and he hires workers for $3 an hour. The employee will receive only $3 regardless of the words of the agent, whether he said, "I will pay $3," or "The employer will pay $3 an hour." This holds true even if the custom in the community is to pay $4 an hour.
If the agent does not specify the wages, the employer has to pay the customary pay scale in the community for such work. If the employer tells the agent to pay $3 and the agent does not specify the wages and there are some employees who receive $3 and some who receive $4, the employer need pay only $3.
What if the employer hires additional workers? The employer had workers working for him and hires additional workers and tells them he will pay them the same $3 that he pays the other employees. The new workers agree to work for the wage that he pays the current workers. It turns out that the current workers receive $4; he must pay the new workers $4. There is also a dissent that holds that the new workers receive only $3 since they commenced to work thinking that they were to get only $3.
The result is the same if the employer hired the new workers and tells them he will pay them $3, the same as all other workers in the community, and it turns out that the other workers are getting $4. The converse is also true where the workers tell the employer that they will work for the same $4 that the other workers in the community receive and they actually receive only $3. The employer need pay only $3 or $4 according to the dissenting view of the previous paragraph.
Payment in Kind
If the employee is hired to collect an instrument of indebtedness and to receive a commission of a certain percentage, the employee is to receive that percentage from the amount that he succeeds in collecting from the debtor.
If the employer agrees to pay the employee an object that is not yet in existence, such as fruit that will grow on a tree sometime in the future, the employer may pay him the money equivalent as he may do with any object, as stated above. The money equivalent is that which the future grown fruit will be worth when the time for payment has arrived.
Payment Higher or Lower than the Average Wage
The subject matter of this lesson is more fully discussed in volume IX chapter 332 of A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law by E. Quint. Copies of all volumes can be purchased via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and via website: www.israelbooks.com and at local Judaica bookstores. Questions to email@example.com