Working for the same employer for three years and signing an employment contract:
Some Poskim rule that an employee, including a worker, teacher, [Sofer], or servant, is not to hire himself out to work for the same employer in his home on a permanent basis for more than three years. [Other Poskim, however, rule one may hire himself out to work for the same employer for over three years, although may not hire himself out to work for the same employer for six years. Other Poskim however argue on all the above and rule that there is never a prohibition involved in hiring oneself out to work for an employer for more than three years, in any situation. Practically, we rule like the first opinion, unless it is a time of great need, as explained next. Thus, a person should not sign an employment contract for a more than three year term. Rather, he should have an option of renewing the contract or quitting within the three years. However, there is seemingly no issue with continuing to work for the same employer for more than three years if one is not bound to a contract which requires him to do so.]
If no other employment opportunities available: Nevertheless, if one does not have another source of sustenance to provide him food, [and has nothing to sell] then he may hire himself to work for the same employer even past three years [and may certainly continue working even past three years].
The law by a woman: (However, a woman who is no longer a Na’arah is not allowed to hire herself to work for the same employer for more than three years even if she does not have another source of income, according to the above opinion.) [Thus, the law by a female employee is more severe than by a male employee, as a male employee may hire themselves out for more than three years if they have no other resources to provide themselves food, while a female employee may not do so even in such a case.]
Summary [includes Q&A]:
Some Poskim rule one may not hire himself out to work for the same employer for more than three consecutive years, unless he has no way to support himself otherwise and will be left hungry. [Thus, a person should not sign an employment contract for a more than three year term. Rather, he should have an option of renewing the contract or quitting within the three years. However, there is no issue with continuing to work for the same employer for more than three years if one is not bound to a contract which requires him to do so. Furthermore, even one who signs an employment contract for more than three years has upon whom to rely if he receives annual vacation days, and is not working in the home of the employer.]
Does the above prohibition [according to stringent opinion] apply towards any job, or only towards a job in which one works in another’s home and lives there on a permanent basis during his years of work?
From the wording of the Poskim it is implied that the prohibition only applies when the worker lives at the house of his employee and is supported by him in terms of room and board. In such a case, they stringent opinion holds it is forbidden to work in such a way for more than three years due to it being similar to a slave. However, if one lives in his own home and eats his own food, then seemingly there is no issue according to any opinion, against working for the same employer for many consecutive years. Nonetheless, some Poskim rule that the above prohibition applies even by an employee who does not live in the home of the employer, such as the Rav of a community, as nevertheless his room and board is supported and paid for by his employer, which is the people of the city. It is for this reason that the contract of Rabbanim is either for three years or five years but not for six years.
What is defined as permanent work?
Some Poskim rule that if the person contains annual vacation days within his employment contract, as is common today, then it is not considered permanent work and one may hence sign on an employment contract of more than three years.
Is the prohibition only against initially accepting at the outset of the employment to work for more than three years for an employer, or for even simply continuing to work for the same employer for more than three years?
The entire issue is only against initially hiring oneself for more than three years. Thus, if the employment agreement is renewed every year, or if there is no employment agreement and the person may decide to leave his job whenever he wishes, then seemingly there is no issue for him working for more than three years for the same employer.
 Admur Hilchos Sheila Usechirus Vechasima 21; See Betzel Hachochmah 2:87; Pischeiy Choshen [Bloy] 7:1; Mishpitei HaChoshen 333:3; Darkei Choshen Teshuvah 9; Even Pinah C.M. 2:183
 Yeish Mi Sheomer in Admur ibid; Rama C.M. 333:3 “For this reason it is forbidden for a worker, including a teacher or scribe, to hire himself to permanently be in the home of the same employer for three years”; Darkei Moshe C.M. 331; Shach C.M. 333:17; Hagahos Mordechai Perek Haumnim Remez 459-460; Maharam Merothenberg Teshuvah 85; See Shabbos 127b “There was a certain man from the upper Galile who hired himself to an employee for three years”
Is this a biblical, or rabbinical prohibition? Some Poskim rule that this is merely a rabbinical prohibition. [Lechem Rav 81; Ketzos Hachosehn 333:7] However, the simple implication of the Poskim is that it is Biblical. [See Darkei Choshen ibid]
 Rama ibid; Hagahos Hamordechai
 So is wording in Admur ibid; However in Rama ibid the wording is “Therefore it is forbidden..”
 Admur and Rama ibid; See Q&A!
 See Q&A for the meaning of the statement.
 Admur ibid; Shach 333:17 based on Ber Sheva p. 112 and Agudas Eizov p. 107 and Hagahos Mordechai ibid; Taz ibid; However, see Rama ibid “three years”; See also Poskim in next footnote
 The reason: As up until three years of work one is considered an employee, as it says in Yeshaya [16:14] “Beshalosh Shanim Kishnei Sachir Venikleh” while by an Eved Ivri the verse [Devarim 15:18] states “Ki Mishneh Secha Sachir Avdecha Sheish Shanim”, and thus if one works for more than three years he leaves the status of an employee and enters the status of a slave and the Torah stated that “Ki Li Bnei Yisrael Avadim”, that they are Hashem’s slaves and not slaves of slaves. [Admur ibid; Shach ibid; Maharam ibid; Mordechai ibid]
Other opinions: Some Poskim learn one may not work for an employer for up to three years, because three years of work is called a Sachir, and one may not be a Sachir. [Smeh 333:15; Shach ibid negates this Nussach and so rules Beir Sheva p. 112; Agudas Eizov p. 107; Admur ibid also rules unlike Smeh] The practical ramification is whether may one work on the last day of the three years.
 Chasam Sofer O.C. 206; Opinion in Aruch Hashulchan 333:14
 The reason: As the verse considers an Eved Ivri to be a slave of six years, and hence any less than six years is not an Eved Ivri. [ibid]
 Tosafus Bava Metzi 10a, brought in Mordechai ibid, Beir Sheva ibid, Shach ibid, Aruch Hashulchan ibid
 See Chasam Sofer O.C. 206 and C.M. 22; Chavos Yair 140;
 Chasam Sofer ibid regarding a Rav
 See Q&A!
 Admur ibid Kuntrus Achron 4 based on Rambam Avadim 1:1; Shach ibid
 Admur ibid; Shach 333:16; Aruch Hashulchan 333:14
The reason: As in times of the Yovel, a person who had no form of sustenance could even sell himself as a slave, as the verse [Vayikra 25:39] states “When your brother becomes destitute and is sold to you”, and thus certainly he may work for more than three years. [Admur ibid; Shach ibid]
 Admur ibid in parentheses
 The reason: (As even in times of the Yovel, a woman who reached puberty [growth of breasts] could not sell herself as a slave [even if destitute] [see Bava Metzia 12b; Tosafus ibid; Rambam Avadim 2], therefore she may also not hire herself to work for more than three years according to the above opinion.) [Admur ibid in parentheses]
 Admur ibid; Rama ibid “To be in the house of the employer permanently”; Hagahos Maimanis ibid “to be in his home and rely on his table” Lechem Rav 81, brought in Kneses Hagedola 334:20; Toras Chesed [Perachya] 261; Gilyonos Baruch Ta’am on Ketzos Hachoshen ibid; Betzel Hachochmah 2:87; Pischeiy Choshen ibid
 Chasam Sofer O.C. 206 and C.M. 22, 172, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 333:6; Implication of Chavos Yair 140 regarding Chazan in Shul; See also Aruch Hashulchan 333:15 and
 Chasam Sofer ibid; Aruch Hashulchan ibid
 Betzel Hachochma 2:87; Pischeiy Choshen ibid
 Setimas Kol Haposkim; Pischeiy Choshen ibid footnote 1
 Although the concept of a Hebrew slave is his actual work for his master for a certain amount of years, and not necessarily the contract between them which requires them to do so, and hence there is room to learn that one should not work for the same employer for more than three years even if no contract was ever signed, nonetheless, the implication from the wording of the Poskim, as well as from Setimas Kol Haposkim, it is implied that the prohibition is only against hiring oneself for a more than three year term and against initially entering into a more than three year employment contract, and not against simply working for the same employer more than three years. [So is implied from the wording of Admur ibid, Rama ibid, Mordechai ibid “Lehaskir Atzmo” and not “La’avod” and so is implied from the fact that in all of the Shaalos and Teshuvos discussing this law, the questions discusses only signing on a more than three year contract, and no question is ever recorded regarding staying with the same employer for more than three years. Indeed, the Chasam Sofer writes that in the contract for a rabbi it suffices to write a stipulation in the contract that he has a right to sever the employment ties whenever he wishes, and that suffices to allow him to become the permanent rabbi of the city for many years to come, hence proving the issue is not with how long you work for, but rather for how long you obligate yourself to work for the same employer.
Leave A Comment?
You must be logged in to post a comment.