We had a worker come to our house to do some electrical work. He never mentioned how he prefers to get paid. When I went to write a check, he told me that he doesn’t have a bank account to deposit a check. He already knew that I pay by check because he returned a check from two years ago when he did work for me that he never deposited. He asked to be paid by cash for the work today, the parts he bought, and the value of the check. I don’t have cash on me so I have to go the ATM and pay the fee there to get him money.
Can I take the amount of the charge from the ATM off the amount that I pay him?
It is normal (in our society) to pay by check, and a worker doesn’t have the right to demand cash. This is true the more so where the worker knows that a particular client pays regularly by check.
Because this is the case, if a worker demands cash, he will have to pay the cost of taking out cash from the back account, and the fee — which is very small — can be deducted from his payment.
See also sources, below.
According to halachah a worker must be paid with money (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 336:1), and not with goods or land. Tosafos (Bava Kama 9a) write further than an employer who has no money is obligated to find the money with which to pay his employees. This ruling is cited by the Shach (336:4), and the Radvaz (3:458) writes that it is a full obligation.
Whether or not an employer must be prepared to incur financial losses in order to procure cash is a subject of debate among Poskim; see Shulchan Aruch Ha-Rav (Sechirus 16), Ahavas Chesed (9:7), and Pischei Choshen.
However, the Shach (332:18) explains that the reason for the obligation is that these are the standard terms for payment, meaning that a laborer works with intention of receiving a cash payment (see also Shita Mekubetzes, Bava Kama 118b).
Based on this, since a check is the normal means of payment for a laborer, it follows that today a worker cannot demand cash payments (unless he’s a taxi driver, for instance, where the accepted payment is cash).
The Pischei Teshuvah (336:1) cites from the Rashba that payment must be made in cash in order that the laborer should be able to purchase his requirements: “On that day you shall pay his hire … and his life depends on it” (Devarim 24:15). However, based on the Shach one can deduct the cost of the ATM from the wages paid.