Shalom Concerning one that works in an office building – I have 3 questions:

1) Technically according to company guidelines, employees must work a certain number of hours per week, and this is also outlined in the employment contracts. However, verbally managers have said that the strict number of hours is somewhat relaxed (eg the company doesn’t count hours but rather the quality of the work completed) and that occassionally there’s nothing wrong with working slightly less hours or leaving work early. Halachichly, is this acceptable even though employees are paid per hour for the specified number of hours?

2) I’m not sure on the details or if this really happened but I read once that Rav Kook Ztz”l once paseled an office worker for eidut because it’s impossible that they haven’t stolen items such as paper clips etc, working in an office setting (I don’t know the details of what kind of eidut it was concerning). Al pi hadin – is there an issue in this regard? If a company has massive supplies of stationery and doesn’t specify their use is only for work related purposes – is there an issur in using them for personal purposes, even thought it’s implied that they’re for work? What about using an office printer to print divrei torah, etc?

3) In the event that by mistake one transgressed either (1) or (2), if they are indeed assur, to what extent is one liable to compensate the company?

Kol tuv.

Answer:

1) Yes, this is fine. The number of hours a person works must reflect the workload that managers or bosses expect. Thus, hours in academia are counted as three-quarter hours, and they are still called “hours.” The same will apply here: If the manager knows about taking leave early here and there, and this does not disturb him, this will not be considered breaking the contract.

Although Chazal are extremely particular about a worker putting in his proper working time (to the degree that workers have a special benching and davening to save time), everything depends on the kepeidah of the boss (how particular he is), so that in our days poskim write that one can complete the entire benching, under the assumption that today’s employer are more flexible. The same idea will apply to the question of working hours.

2) Again, this will depend on whether the boss / owner of the company is particular about this. It is possible that the halachah will change from workplace to workplace, depending on the boss’s attitude. For most workplaces, the boss is not particular about small scale use of the printer for personal purposes, and this will be permitted. However, he might be makpid about taking stationary home, and this should not be done without asking permission.

The Rav Kook story is a little odd – how can we disqualify people based on this assumption?

3) If somebody took time off or took stationary home without permission, and the boss is makpid, the company must be compensated for it. You can perhaps ask the company to cut pay by X amount for one month, to pay for the supplies and the missed hours. Alternatively, you can ask the boss for forego the “debt” – though I understand this won’t always be very convenient.

Best wishes and good luck.

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