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In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2008 / 12 Kislev 5769

Equal and Just Treatment

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Email this article | Q: I find my work very rewarding, but my employer is taking advantage of my dedication by making extensive demands and giving minimal pay. Can I compel the employer to pay me a fair wage?

A: We can gain important insight into your question from the Torah's regulations regarding an eved ivri — a kind of indentured servant hired for a period of up to six years.

The Torah commands us to give the indentured servant fair working conditions:

And if your brother should diminish with you and be sold to you, don't work him like a slave. Like a paid employee, like a freeman, shall he be with you; until the year of the Jubilee he will work with you. And then he shall leave you, he and his children with him, and return to his family, and return to his fathers' inheritance. For they are My servants, whom I took out of the land of Egypt; they may not be sold like slaves. Don't give him crushing work; fear your G-d" (Leviticus 25:39-42).

As Rashi explains, the prohibition to work him like a slave and the obligation to work him like an employee means that he should do productive labor such as manufacture or field work, and not servile personal service customarily done by slaves. The mandate to send away the children implies that during the period of servitude, the children should be supported by the master. And the prohibition on crushing work prohibits busy work or other kind of demeaning labor.

In another place, the Torah commands us that when we free the servant, "Surely grant him a gift, from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your winery", and then explains what to do if the servant wants to remain on "for it is good for him with you" (Deuteronomy 15:13-16). Here we learn that he is due a kind of "severance pay"; from the expression "it is good for him with you", we learn that the servant's living conditions should be comparable to those of the master. (1)

So here we have the description of the ideal working conditions: decent working conditions and employer-worker relations; enough pay so that the worker and his family are able to have a reasonable standard of living; severance pay. Does an ordinary employer have to do these things too?

Most authorities rule that while all of these are desirable in an ordinary employment relationship, they are not obligatory. An indentured servant is deprived of his liberty for a period of years; in return for limiting his freedom, the master has to take responsibility for his well-being.

But an ordinary employee can decide for himself if it is worth his while to do servile tasks, or to accept a subsistence wage, and so on. According to the Sefer Hachinuch, even an ordinary employer should always be careful of giving gratuitous labor to a worker, and should ideally pay severance pay, but even these are not binding Torah commandments but rather moral lessons derived from the commandments.

What this means is that a worker who feels that his working conditions are servile or his pay below subsistence can't place responsibility on the employer; he has to take responsibility for himself. If he feels he is worth more to the employer than he is getting paid, he is certainly within his rights to bargain with the employer, and if necessary to threaten to quit or to actually quit. If the employee has legal or contractual rights which he feels are being neglected, such as minimum wage, overtime, comparable worth, collective bargaining agreements, etc. then of course he may take the steps necessary to enforce his rights.

The real question is how people get stuck in the first place in jobs which they feel are exploitative. Often these jobs are also "idealistic" jobs, and there is a combination of two factors at work: the employee fears that he will not be able to find a new job, and at the same time he esteems the work he does and fears that the employer will not be able to find an adequate replacement. Of course both of these factors are significant, and it may be that after reconsidering your ability to manage on your current salary and the importance to you of engaging in this work you will decide that you are not being exploited after all, but rather you are getting part of your pay in sechar mitzvah — the reward of fulfilling a religious duty.

But as often as not, the situation is not as grave as we depict it. Most employees are able to find jobs within a short time, and most job openings are filled within a short time, so it is worth considering if your fears are really justified. Probably the best course of action is to go to your employer and state, with all sincerity, that without an improvement in working conditions and pay you will just not be able to continue. Hopefully your next employer will treat you at least as well as an indentured servant!

SOURCES: (1) Kiddushin 15a.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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