By Rabbi Yosef Fleischman
Reneging on a Job Offer
Question: My company is looking to hire an employee. After interviewing numerous candidates, I decided to hire one and I verbally informed him of my selection. Before signing a contract, I was informed of someone who had much more experience. After interviewing this candidate I feel that he is much more suited for the position. May I go back on my word or is my word binding?
Answer: Before answering your question, it is important to explain the relevant issue.
The Gemara (Bava Metsio 49 A) records a dispute whether one who merely made a verbal commitment may renege on his word. The halocho is that even though, generally, there are no monetary penalties for one who reneges on his word, it is an improper action and viewed with disdain by the Torah authorities. Moreover, according to many poskim the Gemara specifically mentions that in case of hiring a worker the worker who was originally informed that he would receive the position can have “tarumos”-misgivings. Therefore, it would seem that you should not go back on your word.
The reason why the matter is more complicated is that in this case you are going back on your word because you received new information, which you were unaware of at the time when you made your initial commitment. There is a major dispute among the authorities whether one may go back on his committmnt if his decision is based on new information.
An example of this issue concerns selecting a mohel for a child. The Ramo (Yoreh Deo 264, 1) rules that one is not permitted to change his mind after he offered a moheil to perform the bris melah on his son. Moreover, (see the Beis Yosef) one who does so is dubbed a rosho. Nonetheless, the Taz (264, 5) writes that if after offering the position to a moheil the father was informed that a moheil who was a good friend of the father or a bigger tzaddick than the first moheil is available then the father may change his decision. The reasoning of the Taz is that it is not considered as if the father said an untruth at the time when he offered the position to the first moheil because he was unaware that the second moheil was going to be available. The issur to go back on one’s word is that one must be truthful. Since the only reason the father went back on hs word is the new information he is not considered to be untruthful.
It must be stressed that even the Taz only permits the change if this information was unavailable at the time when the position was offered to the first moheil. If the information was available but the father did not make a proper investigation before offering the position he may not change his mnd after makng further investigation.
Finally, it must be mentioned that the Taz is one opinion and there are many who disagree and the issue remains undecided.
In conclusion, if the information you now have was readily available at the time whe you offered the position to the first candidate it is improper to renege on your commitment. However, if the new information was not readily available there is a dispute if you may renege.
This article first appeared in Ami Magazine and is being reprinted with their kind permission.