skip to Main Content

Is a Worker or Contractor Allowed to Walk Away From a Job?

Rav Yitzchak Grossman

Question: May an employee who committed to work for a period of time or a contractor who committed to do a job renege on their commitment for any reason?

Answer: The Gemara clearly says that an employee is allowed to quit in the middle of the day, even if he committed to work for a full day. The Gemara says that this is because Hashem told us that we are His slaves, and we are not slaves to any man. If a worker wouldn’t be allowed to leave his job in the middle of the day, he would be akin to a slave to his employer; therefore, he must be allowed to back out any time he wishes.

The Gemara distinguishes between a “po’el”, daily worker, and a “kablan”, contractor. A po’el who offers a service to an employer must be allowed to quit because, if he were not allowed to, he would look like a slave. A kablan, who is independent, does not look like a slave, so he is not included in that halacha.

The exact differentiation between a po’el and a kablan is not clear. Some say that anyone who is paid by the hour is categorized as a po’el, while anyone who is paid by the job is a kablan. Others say that the difference is that a po’el has to work at specific times, while a kablan can work whenever he wants, as long as he gets the job done. Either way, a kablan does not have the right to quit in the middle of the day that a po’el has.

Some Poskim say that both a po’el and a kablan actually can leave a job in the middle of the day, the only actual difference is how they are treated if they do so. The po’el will be given more favorable terms, while the kablan will be given less favorable terms. Others disagree and say that a kablan who committed to do a job is not allowed to walk away at all.

Question: What if a po’el made some form of kinyan? Will that affect his right to walk away from a job?

Answer: The Ritvah is of the opinion that if a kinyan was made, even a po’el cannot back out, The Shach disagrees and says a po’el always has the right to quit a job, even if he made a kinyan. Some Poskim say that a kinyan will work for a kablan and that he will be locked in by this kinyan and will not be allowed to back out at all, even for unfavorable terms.


NEW Yorucha Program >