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C2. Paying a Hired Poor Man His Wages on the Same Day He Labors    [Make a Comment]

We are to pay a hired poor man his wages on the same day he labors.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Deuteronomy 24:14
You are not to exploit a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether one of your brothers or a foreigner living in your land in your town.

Deuteronomy 24:15 (Maimonides RP200; Meir MP66; Chinuch C588)
You are to pay him his wages the day he earns them, before sunset; for he is poor and looks forward to being paid. Otherwise he will cry out against you to ADONAI, and it will be your sin.

Matthew 10:10b
... for a worker is worthy of his food.

Although there are still day laborers, in many occupations today, it is customary to pay a hired man or employee at the end of a period of time. This may be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or at the conclusion of a contract, so this mitzvah should not be interpreted to require that all workers be paid daily. That having been said, the Scripture underlying this mitzvah (verse 15) requires that an employer pay a hired man daily if the man's impoverished condition makes it reasonable to do so and, despite the sophistication of today's businesses, I am of the opinion that this mitzvah is still God's law today. The context of verse 14 apparently links not paying wages to a poor worker in a timely manner with exploiting him, the inference being that there are some unscrupulous employers who would withhold or delay the payment of wages to a poor worker in order to pressure him into giving the employer some kind of advantage. Perhaps, therefore, this mitzvah can be construed to have a broader meaning, which is to not exploit a person's weakness to gain advantage (see Mitzvah # N5).


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