Deborah is an experienced general studies teacher working in a local New York school. She and her husband planned to move out of state immediately after winter intersession. Deborah notified the school of her post-intersession plans and resigned from her position. With nearly two months’ notice, the school interviewed many teachers to fill her post for the second half of the year and narrowed down the potential candidates for the job to one teacher. Sometime thereafter, before the winter intersession, Deborah and her husband had a sudden change of plans and notified the school that she intended to stay longer at her job. The school board rejected her notification, explaining that it was too late to reverse her resignation. Deborah responded that her resignation went into effect only after intersession and prior to that date she still has the right to choose to continue her employment. The board further claimed that they finally found a qualified teacher to fill the post and they were unwilling to jeopardize the new teacher’s hiring. They added that Deborah is actively pursuing to move out of state and the school is likely to be stranded without a qualified teacher for their students. Deborah responded that she is willing to give notification two months before leaving, just as she did in the past, and that is sufficient time to find another teacher.
Is the school required to further employ Deborah after intersession? Is the school allowed to release her as planned? How should the Bet Din rule and why?
According to the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch an employee is entitled to quit his job midway. In the event an employee exercises this basic right, his employer is required to prorate the time the employee worked and compensate him with his wages accordingly. Compelling a worker to continue for the duration of his job is viewed by Torah law as a form of slavery. Hence, not only does the worker maintain the right to leave his job, but he is also entitled for his wages for the time he was employed. The employer is required to pay the prorated wages for half the job, even if due to rising inflation the cost of the balance of labor suddenly increases.
The above ruling is applicable to nearly all employer-employee relationships. Nevertheless, if from the onset of employment, the worker understood that quitting his job midway will subsequently cause irreparable damage to his employer, the above ruling differs. In such instances the prorated wages owed to the employee can be withheld by the employer in order to mitigate the damages sustained. In short, quitting midway after assuming responsibility to complete a job is unlawful.
By rule of the Shulhan Aruch, a classroom teacher and even a housekeeper that quits without a qualified replacement is halachically viewed as doing an act of irreparable damage. Upon a teacher quitting midway, an entire classroom of children is in jeopardy of not having a qualified teacher. A housekeeper that walks off a job midway creates a situation of distress as some of the daily chores of the household simply cannot be done by the homeowner.
In the event a teacher chose to abandon her class midway without sufficient reason, the school is by no means required to rehire her. A teacher that willingly jeopardized her students and abandoned her responsibilities to the board of directors is seemingly not the proper candidate for such a job. This is especially true if she further suggests that if rehired, she is considering quitting again during the school year.
If, however, a qualified substitute teacher can readily replace the current one, obviously, the teacher is not in violation when leaving midway. However, not every teacher with credentials is viewed as a viable replacement. Many variables are considered before hiring a teacher, especially if the class is known to have disciplinary issues.
Leading halachic authorities rule that an employer has no legal obligation to a worker that formally resigns from his job. Once the resignation is submitted, either verbally or in writing, the employer is released and is not required by law to reassess the status of his former worker. Additionally, in the event the original employee is aware that someone was already interviewed and assigned as his replacement, it stands to reason that no further confirmation is required, and his employment is officially terminated.
VERDICT: For the Sake of the Children
Our Bet Din ruled in favor of the board of directors and instructed them that they were not required to give Deborah back her job. Deborah submitted her resignation in the middle of the school year thereby causing the school to scramble to find a qualified replacement. The reason for her quitting midway did not halachically justify her actions. By Torah law, abandoning students prior to securing them with a qualified substitute is viewed as irresponsible and damaging. Her year contract with the school did not include an opt out or a provision allowing her to give two months’ notification before leaving. Furthermore, Deborah is requesting to return to her job with an option to leave with two months’ notice. The school is not required to risk the recent secure hiring of the new teacher to accommodate Deborah’s schedule.
Additionally, Deborah officially quit her job. By law, once she submitted her resignation, the school is not required to reassess her employment status. Deborah further confirmed her resignation by consenting to the interviewing and hiring of her replacement.
YOU BE THE JUDGE
A Mother’s Jewelry
Upon the passing of their dear parents, Joan, Albert, and Eddie proceeded to divide their parents’ estate as per the Last Will and Testament left by their father. Each of the two sons inherited forty percent of the estate while Joan, the only daughter, was bequeathed twenty percent. Joan, who had access to the safe in her late parents’ home, opened it and removed her mother’s valuable jewelry. When Albert and Eddie discovered the missing jewelry, they immediately demanded of her to return what she had taken. Joan defended her position explaining that it is customary and a well-known fact that jewelry of a mother belongs to her daughter. Joan further clarified that her mother passed on suddenly, and that her father was ill at the time of her mother’s passing. She continued to explain that if her mother was still alive, or had her father not been ill, they would have most definitely gifted her with the jewelry. As such, she is unwilling to allow her much younger sisters-in law to take possession of the jewelry. Joan’s brothers were not interested in their sister’s plea and demanded that she return what she stole. Without any legal records proving the existence of the jewelry they threatened as a last resort to call the police. The family ultimately brought their dispute to our Bet Din to resolve.
Is Joan entitled to her mother’s jewelry? Are the brothers entitled to a percentage of the jewelry? How should the Bet Din rule and why?