Method of Payment

1. If the employer has money, he must pay the wages with it ((Mishna Bava Metzia 118a.)) and cannot pay with goods or any other item of equivalent value. ((Assuming the worker does not want the other item.)) This is true even if it was not specified how the worker would be paid.

2. Opinions differ why this is true:

  • According to Rashi, he must pay with money since it is accepted to do so. This is deduced from an implication in the verse regarding bal talin. ((Rashi ibid s.v. ein shom’in lo, Shach 332:18. According to Rashi, this condition is specific to bal talin.))
  • According to the Rashba, he must pay with money since the worker is not expected to have to trade items to be able to buy food at the end of the day. ((Rashba ibid s.v. ma she’shaninu.))

3. There are significant differences between the two reasons:

(a) In circumstances where there is no issur of bal talin, e.g. the worker was hired via a third party. According to Rashi, the worker could be paid with goods, but according to the Rashba he must be paid with money. ((See Divrei Mishpat 366 quoted in Pischei Choshen 1.))

(b) If the employer wants to pay with food. According to Rashi, he would transgress bal talin, but according to the Rashba this would be permitted. ((Divrei Mishpat. The Mordechai (Bava Kamma 1) quotes the Maharam Mirotenberg that one may pay with food, but the Shach (366:2) disagrees. See also Rashash Bava Metzia ibid, Pischei Choshen footnote 2, Ketzos Hachoshen 101:3, and Shut Harashba 7:515 (which the Maharam authored).))

(c) If the employer only has food to pay with but no money, according to the Rashba he must give the food, but according to Rashi it is regarded as if he has no means of paying. ((See Section Two point 3.))

(d) If rent is owed, according to Rashi the payment must be with money, but according to the Rashba, he can pay with goods. ((Radvaz 3:415, Minchas Pittim 336:1.))

4. If the worker agreed from the outset to receive payment with goods, or is perfectly happy to do so, ((If the worker only accepts the goods to avoid an uncomfortable situation, it could well be that the employer still has to pay cash.)) the employer does not transgress bal talin and fulfills the mitzvah of paying on time. ((Mishpat Hapo’alim note 14.))

5. As mentioned ((See Section Two point 5.)), if the employer has goods which he is going to sell or that can be sold without a significant loss, he must sell them in order to pay a worker on time. ((Tosfos Bava Kamma 9a s.v. Rav Huna.)) Even if he can only sell them for a significant loss and therefore does have to sell them immediately, he must sell these items in the long term if he has no other way of paying. ((Choshen Mishpat 100.))

Paying with a Check

6. According to most opinions, it is acceptable to pay with a check ((Whose date is current.)) with coverage, ((R’ Moshe Feinstein in mili denezikin question 7, R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv quoted in the work “The Check in Halacha”, notes 120-121.)) even if the banks are already closed. ((Ibid. See also Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:473.))

7. It is acceptable to pay with an electronic bank transfer, even if it is not common to do so.

8. If a slightly post-dated check is easily exchangeable for cash, the mitzvah of paying on time can be fulfilled with this also. If it is not easily exchangeable, one transgresses the mitzvah of paying on time and does not fulfill the mitzvah of paying on time. ((R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv quoted in the work “The Check in Halacha” notes 126-127.))

9. If the employer does not have cash, he must give the worker a current check if he has one (or slightly post-dated one, as above). If the worker accepts a post-dated check, the employer can fulfill the mitzvah with it. ((Based on R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.))

10. If the employer has neither money in the bank nor items which he can sell, he should nevertheless give a post-dated check. ((In this case, the check is considered a valuable item in lieu of payment (see Section Eight point 10, that opinions differ if one fulfills the mitzvah of paying on time with such an item).))

11. According to most opinions, one can pay with a check even if it not common to do so, e.g. a cab driver, baby sitter. ((Based on R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.)) Others disagree. ((Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:470:3.))

12. If the employer has no coverage for a check, but the bank will honor it and overdraw the account causing significant interest fees ((Assuming there is no prohibition in paying this interest.)) , the employer has no obligation to write a check. ((Strictly speaking, the employer has no obligation to borrow money to pay wages. Even according to the Chafetz Chayim (Nesiv Hachesed 9:21) that he must borrow money, he does not have to borrow at a high rate of interest.))

13. If an employer paid with a check without coverage or that was not filled out properly, and the check bounces, he transgresses bal talin. ((Giving such a check is tantamount to giving a piece of paper, with which he clearly cannot fulfill the mitzvah. Based on R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (“The Check in Halacha” note 145). The employer transgresses even if the check bounced after the worker passed it on and benefited from it somewhat.)) However, if the check was not honored for a technical reason (not connected to the employer), the employer does not transgress bal talin, and even fulfills the mitzvah of paying on time. ((R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv quoted in “The Check in Halacha” note 148.))

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