"Stealing" Cleaning Ladies + Can You Ask Your Cleaning Lady For More Hours When It Will Take Away From Someone Else? (aka Poaching Employees)
Today’s question is regarding whether it is permissible to take a cleaning lady (or any employee/item for that matter) away from someone else. This is also known as “poaching”.
Regarding a cleaning lady for our example today, we’ve split it into two different scenarios which arise often.
The first scenario is where you already have a cleaning lady working for you for a few days a week, but comes close to Pesach or any other event/holiday, and you have pressure to get more cleaning help, so you ask her if she is able to come to you for more hours. The issue is, that in those extra hours she usually works for someone else, and you’ll be taking her away from that other person/family.
The second scenario is where you are looking to get a cleaning lady and know that theres one available, but she is already in discussions with someone else, or has even already made up to work for them. If you’re allowed to swoop in and offer a better price, etc. and get her to agree to work for you instead.
So, for the halacha, we can look to the Gemara in Mesechta Kiddushin 59a which is codified in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Siman 239 which brings the halacha regarding a buyer/seller who are discussing the sale of an item or an employer/employee who are discussing a job. The halacha is that if someone were to interrupt or disrupt that deal after they have come to an agreement on price, the person is called a “Rasha”. The commentaries add that they would even go as far as to announce it in public.
This is even though the person had not even started the work, rather just had agreed on a price for the job is enough to be called a “Rasha” for the disruption/taking away.
The Poskim do bring an exception to this case where this specific item or this specific person presents an extraordinary and unique opportunity. In such a limited case, there is room to be permitted to pursue that person or item. [This exception also only applies in a case where the work has not started and there is also no contract/kinyan obligation which has been made between them]
Since the cases are all different and many factors change from case to case, as well as the obvious personal interests of the people who are involved, it would be impossible for a person on their own to weigh out all the factors in deciding whether or not this exception would apply. Therefore, the Poskim bring that a competent authority who is versed in these cases specifically, would have to be consulted in order to weigh all the facts objectively and give an unbiased psak halacha for each individual case.
And of course, after all this said and done, a person must weigh the ramifications of what would result and how it would affect other people's lives and should consider those details as well in their decision whether or not to pursue such an item.