Q: If someone did a job and the wages were not stipulated beforehand, how much is owed?
A: We mentioned last week that it advisable to agree on the fee before starting a job. If nothing was stipulated, but it is customary for the worker or employer to have a set fee scale, that amount is binding on the other party.
If the worker and employer do not have a set scale, the job has to be evaluated according to the going rate of such a job. This includes not only the actual wages, but also any benefits that are typically given for this job. (C.M. 331:2) We must also take into consideration the quality of the job done and the professional training and qualifications of the employee. (Pischei Choshen, Sechirus,ch. 8 ftnt. 11)
In the likely situation that the “going rate” has a range, the employee is entitled only to the lower end of the range, even if most workers charge more. This is based on the basic principle of monetary law that the party in possession of the money has the upper hand, even against the majority [hamotzi meichaveiro alav hare’aya and ain holchin b’mamon achar harov]. (Ketzos Hachoshen 331:3) However, if the employer or employee specifically stated that the payment would be “like others workers in the city,” we take the average of the lower and higher ends of the range. (C.M. 331:3)
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision. The Business Halacha email is a project of Business Halacha Institute (www.businesshalacha.com) and is under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn.