By the Bais Hora'ah
Two of my employees have a claim regarding benefits. I would like to compromise with one of them - but not with the other. I am concerned that if I compromise with the first employee, the second one will use this as proof that I owe him as well.
Q: Could the second employee use my willingness to compromise with the first employee against me?
A: As a general principle, a benefactor has the option to benefit one person and not another. For example, the Gemara (Kesubos 66a-b) teaches that if one indebted himself to give a gift to his son-in-law who then died without children, he is not obligated to give this gift to his brother, who is now the yabam.
Based on this, Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 77:7) rules that a borrower may agree to compromise with one of the partners who lent him money, but not with the other. When the second partner claims that the compromise proves that the borrower owes money, the borrower can respond that he is willing to forgo monetary repayment from one partner, but not from the other.
There seems to be a contradictory ruling to this principle. Elsewhere, Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 176:31) rules that one who admits to or pays a debt to one partner is considered to have also admitted to the other partner and must pay him as well. Sma (176:73) notes the contradiction and suggests the following resolution. He explains that there is a fundamental difference between a compromise and a payment. A defendant may decide to reach a compromise with one partner and not the other. Such a compromise is essentially a gift, since the defendant was not obligated to pay anything. Since it is considered a gift, the defendant has the right to give a gift or reach a compromise with one partner and not the other.
If he pays the full claim to one of the partners, that payment is not seen as a gift; rather, it is seen as an admission that he owes money. Once the defendant admits that he owes money, he is obligated to pay the second partner the money that he owes him as well.
In your case, if you pay the full claim of one of the employees, the second employee may indeed use that payment as proof of your admission that you also owe him that benefit. If, however, you reach a compromise agreement with the first employee, you need not be concerned. That compromise is classified as a gift rather than an admission, and as such, you may choose to compromise with one rather than with the other (see Knesses Hagedolah 176; Hagahos B.Y. 161; Maharsham 3:261).