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Beit Midrash Series P'ninat Mishpat

Chapter 32

Firing of a Teacher for Coming Late

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P'ninat Mishpat (607)
Rabbi Yosef Goldberg
31 - Unintended Clause in a Contract
32 - Firing of a Teacher for Coming Late
33 - The Termination of a Contractor’s Work Due to Mutual Complaints
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The plaintiff (=pl) was a ram in the defendant’s (=def) yeshiva for four and a half years and was fired in the middle of the winter term. Pl demands severance pay and payment until the end of the year. Def justifies the firing based on the undisputed fact that pl came late several times and that he once hit a student.

Ruling : Beit din recognizes severance payment as accepted practice, which does not require an explicit promise in a given work situation. Furthermore, the practice is that a worker does not lose the right to severance pay even if he was dismissed for valid reasons unless he was convicted of a crime.
The dayanim disagreed whether there were valid grounds for pl’s dismissal. Regarding the incident where pl hit a student, it was agreed that this was not grounds for dismissal. Although it is no longer considered valid for a teacher to hit a student, it is not accepted, even among schools that are run under the Department of Education, to fire a teacher based on a single incident. Regarding arriving late to work, one dayan felt that it was not grounds for dismissal. He cited a ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, YD I, 138) who says that while it is forbidden to arrive late for work, it is not grounds for firing.
However, another dayan pointed out that since pl admitted that the reason he frequently came late is that he felt that since he was underpaid, he did not have to put so much effort into his job, it is clear that he did not consider teaching Torah such an important undertaking. It appears that the students sensed this lack of dedication. Therefore, the dismissal was justified (pl would still get severance pay).
The practice is to pay teachers until the end of an academic year even if the employer wants to discontinue the employment, because it is difficult to find work in the middle of a school session. There seem to be two additional reasons. First, the Rosh (Shut 104:4) says that one who is hired for a set time cannot be removed from the job during that time unless he was negligent. Secondly, the Pitchei Teshuva (CM 333:10) says that regarding yeshivot, a rosh yeshiva can discontinue a ram’s position only until the beginning of a z’man (yeshiva session).
According to the first opinion regarding the grounds for dismissal, since it was wrong to fire pl, he certainly gets paid until the end of the year. According to the (majority) opinion that it was a proper firing, since the dismissal was justified, def does not have to pay his salary until the end of the year, and this is how the beit din ruled.
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