MASTER AND SERVANT:
The Pentateuch lays down the rule, in favor of the workman, that "the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning" (Lev. xix. 13); the preceding words of the same verse, "thou shalt not oppress thy neighbor" (R. V.), are also construed as forbidding the withholding of the workman's hire (B. M. 110). Even more strongly is this idea expressed in Deut. xxiv. 15: "In his day thou shalt give him his hire; neither shall the sun go down upon it" (R. V.).
Deut. xxiii. 25, which permits one who goes into the vineyard or the cornfield of his neighbor to pluck and eat grapes or ears of corn, though he may not use a vessel for the former nor a sickle for the latter, is by tradition (B. M. vii. 2-8) interpreted as applying only to the workmen who enter into the vineyard or field in the employment of the owner.Board as Wages.
- (1) What the Mishnah says about the rights and duties of workmen ("po'alim") applies mainly to those employed in husbandry; mechanics and carriers are specially treated as such. As in the law of rural leases (see Landlord and Tenant), local custom was the principal standard in dealings with those hired for husbandry. The Mishnah (B. M. vii. 1) says, "He who hires workmen and asks them to work in early morning or in late evening at a place where early morning or late evening work is not customary can not compel them [to do so]. Where the custom is to feed, he must feed; to provide sweets, he must provide [them]—all according to the custom of the province." This applies also to the quality of the board, as R. Simeon ben Gamaliel points out in answer to the saying of R. Johanan ben Mattai, of whom the following is reported: He sent his son to hire laborers, and the son agreed to board them. When he returned to his father, the latter said: "My son, even if you provide for them a meal equal to the best of Solomon's,you have not discharged your obligation to them, for they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Before they begin to work, say to them: 'I shall give you bread and beans.'" Though R. Johanan's view is not correct, it shows the high regard in which even the lowly Israelite, depending on hired labor for his daily bread, was held by the sages (B. M. 83-87).
- (2) The passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy on the payment of hired laborers, one giving the entire day and the other the entire night in which to pay, are thus harmonized in the Mishnah (B. M. ix. 11): "He that is hired by the day receives [his wages] at any time in the [following] night; one hired by the night, at any time in the [following] day; one hired by the hour, at any time during the night and day following; one hired by the week, month, year, or week of years, if the time ends in the day, during the remainder of the day; if during the night, he receives it during that night or on the following day." The duty of the hirer to pay promptly is not confined to wages, but extends to payment for the use of cattle or implements (B. M. ix. 12), probably because these were often furnished by the workman, as is the case to-day with the teamster, who sets a price per day for himself and his team.
- (3) In regard to the right to eat grapes or ears of corn in the master's field, the Mishnah (B. M. vii. 2-8) says: "The following eat according to Scripture: He that works on what is affixed to the ground eats at the time of finishing the work; he that works on what is separated from the ground eats before the work is complete [for after that it is subject to tithe] of those things which grow from the earth [which excludes esculent roots]." But those engaged in milking or cheese-making, for instance, do not eat of the produce they are handling. "He whose work is among figs has no right to eat from the grapes, or vice versa; but the man may restrain his appetite until he comes to the finest fruit." All this applies to men at ordinary work; but when the workmen are engaged in bringing back some of the master's lost property, they may eat while going from furrow to furrow, or while returning from the wine- or oil-press, or from what is on a beast of burden which they are unloading. The workman may eat cucumbers, or dates, or the like, irrespective of their market value; but he should be taught not to act greedily and thereby "close the door upon himself." The workman may, for a sum of money, surrender his right to eat, either on his own behalf, or on behalf of his wife, or of his grown children or slaves, but not on behalf of his infant children or infant slaves, or of his beasts.Those that watch the crops are according to Scripture not permitted to eat, but by custom are, nevertheless, allowed to do so. When one man watches the fields of several owners he may satisfy his hunger from the field of one alone (B. M. 87-93).
- (4) Elsewhere (B. M. vi. 1-2) the Mishnah speaks of mechanics ("umanin"), ass-drivers, and teamsters, the hirer being not a master mechanic or master carrier, but a householder ("ba'al ha-bayit") who employs them in his own affairs. If, in the case of the hirer and the mechanic, one has led the other into error, the latter has no remedy beyond a "rebuke" ("tar'umet"). In the Gemara two possible cases of this sort are mentioned. In one the householder sends one workman to employ others, and the workman so sent engages them either at higher wages than authorized (which, of course, does not bind the employer), or at lower wages, which, to their loss, they accept. In the other, after work is begun, the master (or the workmen) refuses to continue. But where an ass-driver or teamster is hired under pressing circumstances, as for a wedding or a funeral, or where workmen are hired to bring in flax from the tanks, or to do similar tasks involving perishable matter, and they refuse to continue (after beginning the work), the hirer may employ others at the cost of the workmen so refusing, to the extent of the whole wage or any part thereof.
When the mechanics who have been employed refuse to continue with the work (after doing part) they are at a disadvantage; the hirer may take out of their wages all the cost of employing others, even though the rate of wages has risen; but if the householder refuses to continue he is at a disadvantage; that is, he must pay them for what they have done plus the whole contract-price for the future work, less what it would cost to hire others, even though the rate of wages has fallen in the interval. In general, whoever recedes from a contract is at a disadvantage (lit. "his hand is the lower"). These rules naturally would apply to husbandry also (B. M. 75a; B. B. 153a).
- (5) Whenever a workman in plying his trade has in his charge any chattel or animal of his employer, his liability for loss or damage is measured by that of a "keeper for hire" (B. M. vi. 6). See Bailments.
- Maimonides, Yad, Sekirut, ix.;
- Caro, Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 311-319.