If I am taking time out of my work schedule to meet with an interviewer for a job, am I obligated to tell my current employer? I don't know how to get away from the office for the interview without lying & going against my Jewish & personal values, but I do not feel comfortable telling my employer that I am seeking employment elsewhere.
Writing as you do, “I don't know how to get away from the office for the interview without lying & going against my Jewish & personal values,” you reveal that you understand that your plan to deceive your employer is wrong “Jewishly.”
It is easy, especially these days, to rationalize away our wrongdoing. This would be as if to say that no one is watching us. From a Jewish standpoint there is always “Someone Watching.”
An overarching principle in the Torah, which is to be seen in our synagogue in beautiful Hebrew characters above the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) is, “You shall do what is ha-yashar (right) and ha- tov (good) in the sight of God, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which God swore to give your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 6:18)
No matter how you want to interpret your planned course of action with your employer, you are hoping to successfully deceive and in a real sense steal from him or her. Steal, seems to be a strong term for a deception, but it is the exact term employed by the Sages.
Let us look at what a professor of business and marketing wrote on the subject basing himself in Rabbinic sources. The term for this transgression in Jewish Law is geneivat da’at.
Professor Hershey H. Friedman writes, “The literal meaning of geneivat da'at in Hebrew is theft of one's mind, thoughts, wisdom, or knowledge, i.e., fooling someone and thereby causing him or her to have a mistaken assumption, belief, and/or impression. Thus, the term is used in Jewish law to indicate deception, cheating, creating a false impression, and acquiring undeserved goodwill. Geneivat da'at goes beyond lying. Any words or actions that cause others to form incorrect conclusions about one's motives might be a violation of this prohibition. One does not have the right to diminish the ability of another person, Jew or Gentile, to make a fair and honest evaluation, whether in business or interpersonal relations.”
You may recognize the word geneiva as the Hebrew word for stealing. This comes from the Asseret Ha-Dibberot (Decalogue) in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20. There in two words, it says, “Lo tignov—You shall not steal.” This is also found in the plural “Lo tignovu,” perhaps dealing with our subject more directly, in the Book of Leviticus 19:11. Either way, there is clarity that stealing and deception are forbidden in the Torah.
The expression, “honesty is the best policy” can serve one well, even though one must at times suffer consequences.
I understand the conflict that you are facing. In this uncertain economic environment it is risky to share your thoughts of leaving with your current employer. That being said, I don’t think you need to jeopardize your financial well being by sharing your investigation with your employer. However, you do point out the problem of leaving your office on company time, essentially getting paid while you investigate other employment options. This seems to present some ethical challenges and can even be construed as a form of stealing from your employer.
It seems that there are a few possible solutions. The first, is to let your prospective employer know that you would prefer to meet when you are not expected to be at your current job. Perhaps this will have the positive effect of demonstrating your honesty and work ethic to your prospective employer. Alternatively, if this is not possible or presents too much risk, you could take time off (a personal day?) to go on some interviews. This would allow you to investigate your options without compromising your values.
I wish you well on your job search, it is a stressful time in anyone’s life. I also hope you can make this transition without compromising your values.
Your questions balance issues of duty to an employer and your privacy (which can be seen as a duty to yourself).
Trying to act in an ethical and fair manner is commendable. I would respond from a Reform Jewish perspective (though I am not sure that there is much difference between the various streams of Judaism in this matter) as follows.
First, let’s examine the duty to your employer.
In favor of disclosure, to some degree or other, you do have an obligation to your employer. Clearly, you can’t simply not show up for work, or walk out without saying a word. If there is a policy that you arrange for time off in advance, you have to comply, whether this is time for a job interview, a vacation, or a medical appointment. To do otherwise would be abusive to the employer – and under the principle of al tono ish et amecha (a person should not take advantage of or abuse their fellow), that would be prohibited. Likewise, to leave and not tell the employer, and hope they didn’t notice would be forbidden as a form of theft (lo tignov).
If your job is one that can be performed at any time, asking for flexibility, by shifting your hours for a given day should not raise any concerns for your employer. For example, if you do data entry online from home, and are responsible for working a certain number of hours in a week but when is up to you, shifting the hours a bit one day should not create a hardship for your employer. You may need to let them know you are doing so, or even that you are taking a few hours of vacation time, depending on their policies and practices.
If your job is time-sensitive (if it must be done at a specific time and place, such as caring for animals, attending a meeting, or covering a specific shift), or this is the ‘busy season’ for your employer, in addition to informing them that you will need to be away for a time, you may also need to work with your employer to find alternate coverage for the time you are away – which is part of the reason for advance notice. Unless you took the job with the understanding that at this particular time (of year, month, or whatever), you would not take time off for a valid business reason, your employer has a duty to allow you to have time off (for this reason most CPAs would not expect to be able to take time off in the weeks leading up to April 15th without a really good reason, but if they ask for time in the month of May off, they probably can expect to have it) There are duties owed by an empoyer to the employee (see other answers on JVO concerning this matter).
Secondly, at the same time, with regard to your personal time and privacy, you are not obliged to inform your employer of all the details of your life (and if you do disclose that much, you are actually engaging in lashon hara – evil speech/gossip against yourself, rechilut – talebaring, or gossip, each of which is a forbidden activity).
If you arrange to take time off for a medical appointment, there is no obligation to disclose or discuss what medical exams or procedures are being performed on you, and similarly, if you take vacation time, you are not obliged to discuss or clear your vacation plans with your employer. Time that you are away from your workplace and your job is your own; you have no duty to your employer to account for it. If your employer demands information that is not relevant to your employment, that is an intrusion into your life, and a violation of your privacy that is unwarranted.
This line between work and private life becomes more ‘fuzzy’ if your behavior during private time crosses over and degrades your performance at work, such as excessive drinking, or taking drugs, or getting arrested and jailed, and coming (or not coming in for the last esample) to work unable or unready to fully perform. But short of that kind of crossing over, what you do in your private time should not be a concern of your employer. On your time, whether you play video games, go to the movies, visit friends, clean your house, nap, or order pizza is not their concern.
The conclusion I draw is that you must inform your employer that you are taking time off, but not for what reason.
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