Story LineDouble-Billing Travel ExpensesRabbi Meir Orlean
Mr. Lazer began working as an independent consultant and would travel nationwide to clients from his home in New York. In addition to his regular fee, Mr. Lazer would charge the clients for his travel expenses.
“We would like to book a meeting next Wednesday morning,” said one client in California.
“I can do that,” replied Mr. Lazer. “I’ll put it in my schedule.”
Shortly afterward, Mr. Lazer received a call from another client in California. “We would like to arrange a meeting with you sometime next week,” they said.
“I can be there on Tuesday or Thursday,” replied Mr. Lazer.
“Thursday works fine for us,” said the client.
The phone rang yet a third time, from a client in Chicago. “When can we schedule a meeting?” they asked.
“Next Tuesday would be good for me,” said Mr. Lazer.
“That works for us, as well,” said the client.
“That’s a pretty efficient week,” Mr. Lazer said to his wife. “Tuesday in Chicago, Wednesday and Thursday in California, and back home for Shabbos.” He booked a flight to California with a stop-over in Chicago.
“Who are you going to charge for the flight?” asked Mrs. Lazer.
“My contract with each client stipulates that they pay travel expenses,” replied Mr. Lazer. “I guess I can charge them all. What difference does it make to them whether I have one appointment or three?”
“But how can you ask for reimbursement of an expense that was already covered?” asked Mrs. Lazer.
“I hear your point,” acknowledged Mr. Lazer. He decided to consult with Rabbi Dayan, and asked:
“Can I charge the travel expenses to multiple clients? If not, how do I bill the cost?”
“Usually you cannot double-bill, but this depends on the contractual arrangement or local common practice of travel expenses,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “In some places, travel expenses are figured on a standard basis, with no expectation of presenting a receipt. This is common in Israel, where the monthly salary contains a daily travel component based on the cost of public transportation or kilometer distance from home (C.M. 331:2).
“Many authorities allow the daily travel reimbursement there even if the person walked or received a ride to work. Moreover, if a person had two jobs in the same location, some allow receiving the travel reimbursement from each, since both employers committed independently to provide the travel expenses as a standard salary component (see Kesubos 101b; E.H. 114:8; Techumin 19, p. 271).
“However, if the employee has to provide a receipt or a precise reckoning of his travel expenses and the reimbursement is in accordance, as in the case of consultants, the nature of this reimbursement is usually for actual expenses. Therefore, if the expense was already covered by another party, it is not permissible to submit a copy to another client and ask for double reimbursement.”
“How should the expense be divided among the clients?” asked Mr. Lazer.
“Ideally, the cost of each leg of the journey should be split between all relevant clients,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Thus, the trip to Chicago should be divided in thirds, and the additional cost to California divided in half. This is similar to people who have a joint need to fix a blocked river or sewage line. Each person must share in the cost of repairing the stretch of river or sewage line relevant to him, but he does not have to share in areas that are not relevant to him (B.M. 108a; C.M. 161:6, 170:1).
“However, this is not realistic in many cases. Therefore, you could submit the travel cost to either company, since all were willing to cover the travel expense. Fairness would dictate to charge the first company who scheduled, alternate the billing between the companies over time, or submit it to the company that primarily gained from that leg of the journey” (see E.H. 114:9).
Verdict: If the travel reimbursement requires submitting receipts or precise reckoning, presumably it is only for actual expenses, and you may not double-bill multiple clients.
From the BHI HotlineMay I Save My Job?
Q: I’m a Maggid Shiur in a mesivta that is planning to cut out a class this coming year, which means that they will lay off one Maggid Shiur. My relative is friendly with one of the hanhalah members and might be able to influence him to keep me on staff. Am I allowed to ask him to do so, if that means that someone else will get laid off instead of me?
A: Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Kamma 3:1) discusses cases in which a person wishes to prevent damage to his own property by diverting that loss to another person. For instance, if a person sees that a water duct is going to flood his field, if the water hasn’t yet entered his field, he may divert the flow of the water even if that means that it will flood someone else’s field. Once the water has entered his field, however, he may not divert it if it will cause damage to another person’s property (Choshen Mishpat 388:12).
Similarly, if a the government is planning to impose a tax on the residents of a city, as long as they haven’t entered the city, an individual may approach the officials and attempt to bribe them not to impose the tax on him, even if it means that others will have to pay instead of him. [It is also permissible for a third party to attempt to intercede on behalf of specific residents; see Noda B’Yehuda Tinyana, Yoreh Dei’ah 74.] Once the government imposed a tax on the city, however, no one is allowed to try to bribe his way out of paying the tax if it means that others will have to pay instead of him (Shach 163:18; cf. Aruch Laner, Yevamos 79a, s.v. V’akati.).
This halachah is applied by the poskim to cases involving people as well. For instance, when the czars ym”s imposed the Cantonist decrees, in which each Jewish community was assigned a quota of children to be conscripted into the Russian army, the poskim debated whether a person was allowed to wheedle his way (or his son’s way) out of the draft if that meant that someone else was going to be conscripted in his place. Following the precedent of the Yerushalmi, some poskim differentiated between cases in which a person was already conscripted and those in which he wasn’t (see Nodeh B’Yehuda and Shu”t Chasam Sofer 6:29), but other poskim maintained that in such a case, a person is always allowed to save himself from conscription due to the principle of chayecha kodmin (Yad Avraham, Yoreh Dei’ah 157, based on Bava Metzia 62a; cf. Magen Avraham 156, Imrei Binah, Orach Chaim 13:5, and Damesek Eliezer [Perlmutter], Introduction and addendum to Introduction. This halachah was also deliberated during the Holocaust; see Introduction to Shu”t Mekadshei Hashem 3, and Shu”t Mimaamakim 5:1).
At first glance, then, it would seem that if the hanhalah already decided to release you, you may not attempt to save your own position if it means that someone else will lose his job, but if the decision wasn’t final, you may be allowed to attempt such an effort.
Upon further analysis, however, your case is dissimilar to all of the aforementioned cases because preventing the other Maggid Shiur from earning money in the future is not akin to causing damage.
We see clearly, for instance, that the poskim deliberate whether a Rebbi may offer his services to a yeshivah that is fully staffed, knowing that if they do hire him, they will fire someone else. The discussion centers around whether it is a case of ani hamehapech becharara (interfering with another Jew’s business deal; see Choshen Mishpat 237:1), not a case of hezek (damage).
In your case, we can rule leniently in regard to ani hamehapech becharara because many poskim maintain that ani hamehapech does not apply when it is a unique opportunity (ibid.). The fact that you are attempting to remain in a school that you are accustomed to teaching in is defined as an extraordinary opportunity. Even those who are stringent in cases of unique opportunities would agree that in this case, you may attempt to retain your position because both of you are equally pursuing the position (see Ramban, Bava Basra 54b; Ran, Kiddushin 24a of the Rif folios).
You would therefore be allowed to intervene in order to save your position even if that means someone else will be laid off. (See however Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:81 and Pischei Choshen, Sechirus ch. 10 fn. 1, who discuss how the hanhalah should act in such a situation).
Money mattersCompetition between Brokers#475
Q: There is an established real-estate broker and shadchan in my community. Am I allowed to compete with or bypass him and suggest real-estate transactions or shidduchim on my own?
A: In a place where there are multiple brokers or shadchanim, which can lead to strife, if the leaders of the community or government can establish guidelines for their competition, it is good to do so (Rama C.M. 369:11; Chasam Sofer, C.M. #44).
In the absence of any established rules, there is no limitation to competition with another broker or shadchan, even if he or she is already established in the city, or to suggest prospective buyers, tenants or shidduchim.
However, If the seller signed a sole-broker agreement, you may not bypass the broker and suggest a buyer or renter, or even make a direct offer of your own to buy or rent. If you did, the sole broker is entitled to compensation according to the terms of the contract or the common practice.