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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 May 14, 2007 / 26 Iyar, 5767

Slander in Self-Defense

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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Can I bad-mouth an employee who suddenly quit to go into competition?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: An employee resigned suddenly to compete with our firm, leaving us in the lurch. Am I allowed to tell inconvenienced customers the reason for our disarray? This would both take the blame off me and my remaining loyal employees, and also warn the customers about this person's questionable character.


A: A sudden departure in these circumstances is almost always an ethical breach. Jewish law is adamant about the freedom of a worker to leave his place of work, as an employee is not a slave. The Talmud cites the Biblical verse (Leviticus 25:55), "For the children of Israel are servants to Me", and concludes: "Servants to me, and not servants to other servants [human beings]". (1)


But this freedom is subject to reasonable limitations. The Mishnah explains that when a sudden departure causes a substantive loss to the employer, it is an ethical breach. (2) The Talmud adds that only very compelling circumstances can justify a sudden departure which results in such a loss. (3) Furthermore, employment contracts today customarily include a "notice period"; such a customary contractual obligation should certainly be honored.


However, now that the employee has already left, the question is what to tell others. Obviously there is a strong temptation to tell the whole story, but this temptation needs to be tempered by a number of ethical considerations.


Certainly you shouldn't bad-mouth the employee vindictively. The Torah permits us to take measures to obtain satisfaction from someone who has caused us loss or harm, but never to act in a vindictive or vengeful fashion. "Don't take vengeance and don't bear a grudge against the children of your people" (Leviticus 19:18).


However, in this case mentioning out the bad behavior of your former employee is not gratuitous, as it does serve some constructive purpose. As you point out, it takes the blame off of you for falling behind schedule in providing service to your customers, and also gives them important information about this person's reliability.


Even so, unusual caution is necessary in this case. First of all, your motivation is likely to be colored by extraneous motivations. The classic Jewish book on clean speech, the Chafetz Chaim, mentions both that competitors are tempted to slander each other (4) and that someone who is wronged is tempted to slander the wrongdoer (5) Even in these cases reporting is permissible if indeed the objective is solely for benefit, as in the case of self-protection. (6)


But even if your motivation is solely to protect yourself and your customer, you must keep in mind that your customers don't know this, and any negative statements are likely to be interpreted by the listener as self-interested slander. After all, they are unable to verify the exact circumstances of this person's departure, and one possible result is a race-to-the-bottom cycle of mutual recrimination.


Given this reality, the most prudent policy, and the most common among reputable firms, is "silence is golden". Customers will probably have to be informed that this worker has left your employ, and you may have to tell them that the departure may cause some minor inconvenience. But for the sake of your own reputation it is best not to state that he left without notice or mention any other unsubstantiated claims you have against him.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 10a (2) Mishna, Bava Metzia 6:1. (3) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 77b (4) Chafetz Chaim I 4:11 in note (5) Chafetz Chaim I:10 11-13. (6) Chafetz Chaim II 9:14-15

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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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