Lip Liabilities: Verbal Abuse or Gossip!
By Rabbi Yosef Y Ettlinger
Many schools require the teacher to arrange for a substitute, should the teacher need to take a leave of absence.
R. Berger was an acclaimed and noteworthy educator in a prestigious Jerusalem girl’s seminary. As a world renown speaker and sought after inspirer, R. Berger would travel periodically around the globe on speaking tours. He customarily hired R. Adler to teach his classes while on leave.
On Sunday January 29th, R. Berger emailed R. Adler and asked him to fill in for the two weeks of February 5th and February 12th. Adler had an alternative option for the week of the fifth, but turned it down in favor of this two week employment.
On Feb 1st, the principal’s neighbor told her that she is aware of a R. Cohn who is from the most dynamic teachers in the country. “Why don’t you hire R. Cohn to cover R. Berger’s classes? While R. Adler may be decent, I am sure that Cohn is far more effective.
The principal agreed. He called R. Adler to tell him not to bother coming in. Too late to pursue the one week employment option, R. Adler was more than chagrined.
As a child Aviva suffered verbal abuse from her older sister which severely impaired her productivity as a teen. A caring teacher encouraged her to seek professional help.
Must Mrs. Cohn, the principal, and/or R. Berger compensate R. Adler?
Who pays for the therapy, Aviva, her teacher, or her sister?
What’s the Law?
The principal must compensate R. Adler for one week of lost wages. Aviva’s sister must pay for the therapy (see detailed explanation).
Lip Liabilities invokes the following Halachos.
1. Barring unforeseen/incontrollable circumstances, if A canceled a verbal employment engagement after B turned down alternative work, A is liable to pay Bfor his/her loss.
2. However, if A cancelled before B began working or travelling to work, A is not required to pay for B’s dashed expectations.
For example: If 1) B did not turn down alternative employment and 2) did not lose the opportunity to seek out alternative work, A is not required to compensate [Choshen Mishpat 333:2, 334:1].
R. Berger had the right to hire the R. Adler and it is as though the principal hired him. As such, if the substitute turned down employment as a result of the responsible party’s verbal commitment, and can no longer find alternative employment, the principal must pay for the week of wages the substitute turned down.
The principal is absolved though, from compensating the substitute for the wages for the second week, which amount to no more than dashed expectations.
3. One who physically harms his/her fellow must pay for damages and medical expenses incurred amongst other charges [Choshen Mishpat 420: 3, 13].
4. Intentional damage requires the aggressor to compensate the victim for the embarrassment suffered as well [Choshen Mishpat 420: 3, Sm”a ibid. 44, Choshen Mishpat 421: 1].
5. The authority to enforce the numerous charges depends upon the rank of the particular Beit Din. See Choshen Mishpat §1 for detailed discussion.
6. In lieu of medical expenses, even a lower ranking Beit Din retains the authority to compel the aggressor to appease the victim financially compensate him/her in accordance with their evaluation [Choshen Mishpat §1:2 Rema].
7. Verbally abusing a victim who is unable to protect him/herself [See Choshen Mishpat 420:32] from becoming emotionally scarred whereby resulting in the victim’s compromised productivity is viewed in the eyes of Dayanim as a clear present and visible damage for which the aggressor should pay.
8. The medical expenses would be the cost of therapy. However, Beit Din will assess how much the therapy should cost and levy a one time fee, rather than send a bill after every visit.
As Aviva was unable to protect herself from the verbal abuse to which her sister subjected her, Aviva’s sister is required to pay for her therapy.
Dayan Chaim Kohn, Dayan K’hal Adath Yeshurn NYC, Gerrer Shtiebel Flatbush, Dean of Business Halacha Institute