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Are there any tips anyone would care to provide to help one avoid (or get out of) a workplace situation in which one has been asked to assist someone do something that violates Halachah?

Examples that come up in the workplace:

  • Assisting with setting up non-Kosher food for a gathering, where some attendee(s) may be Jewish but not keep Kosher.

  • Assisting a disabled, Jewish individual get her non-Kosher lunch out of her hard to reach backpack. (This inspired the question, actually.)

  • Helping Jewish colleagues (or customers) prepare for business trips that involve work and/or travel on Shabbath and Yom Tov.

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3 Answers 3

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The first thing I would do in that situation is to try to provide the halachic options. For example, in setting up the lunch, I would order in some kosher food and set up a separate table for it, making sure it's well-labelled. This might be enough to entice the people who don't keep kosher to eat the kosher food, because they didn't have to make special arrangements. (If you're not already confident in your observance or aspirations of observance, it can be very hard to make that request for accommodation. But if the food's right there in front of you...) For the travel arrangements, I would first present itineraries that don't involve travel on Shabbat/Yom Tov and see if they're acceptable. There's not much you can do if the timing of the meeting/conference/whatever itself violates halacha, unfortunately, but in that case you're not the one placing the stumbling-block.

(I was once sent to a summer conference that started on a Sunday morning. At that company employees proposed itineraries for approval. My submission of a flight on Friday afternoon raised eyebrows, but there were no Saturday-night flights that would get me there in time. I pointed out that the extra two hotel nights were less expensive than the difference in airfares (Saturday stay-over being a big deal at the time) and they agreed. I went to Chabad for Shabbat meals. I mention this to illustrate that even if candidate travel arrangements seem like they would be rejected by the corporate powers that be, it's worth asking. For persuading the employee who'll be doing the travel, you'll probably need to point out some other reasons that spending extra time at the destination is attractive; nobody wants to just sit in a hotel room for an extra day.)

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In Yoreh Deah 151:4, the Rama quotes the Mordechai that it is permissible to sell objects of idol worship to a non-Jew if the non-Jew can obtain objects of idol worship through other means anyway. He also quotes a few other sources that disagree, though he writes that the practice is to be lenient. The Shach (s"k 6 and quoted in Beer Heitev s"k 5) writes that even the stringent authorities quoted by the Rama agree with the Mordechai. However, the Shach there explains that to a Jew it is nevertheless forbidden; see there. However, he writes that for a mumar, he counts as a non-Jew. But also see the Dagul MeRevavah that a Jewish mumar has the law of an ordinary Jew.

This would seem to correspond to your first two cases. We would say that according to everyone, you can't give a Jew non-kosher food. However, from the Shach (not like the Dagul Merevavah), it appears that for a mumar it is permissible. What is a mumar? Does it have to be someone who worships idols, or can it even be someone who is mechalel shabbos befarhesiya (publicly)? I don't know. Although the Kitzur (72:2) writes that whoever desecrates Shabbos in public is like an oved kochavim for every matter, the Shearim Metzuyanim Bahalachah there says that this is only lechumrah; but if treating him as an oved kochavim would lead to a kula — as in your case — he counts as an ordinary Jew.

Concerning the third question, the Shu"T Teshuvos VeHanhagos (pt. 1 siman 283) writes that it is forbidden, in contradiction to the Igros Mosheh (OC pt. 3 siman 36) which he quotes there.

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Do any of the sources you cited address the question of agency? It's forbidden to sell idols, i.e. be the one who benefits from the sale; does that also mean it's forbidden if you're just an agent for someone else (the employer)? It seems plausible that it is, and it also seems plausible that we'd be more lenient in that case. –  Monica Cellio Jun 4 '12 at 12:49
    
This seems to correspond more to the related question of whether or not it's a problem in the first place. –  Seth J Jun 4 '12 at 13:46

I know of a mechanic that has many non religious workers. He has instituted that no one is allowed to bring his own lunch, and he supplies lunch daily for all his workers. In addition he has them wash and then Bentch together. (no one stands with a gun to their head, it is done and those that want to, participate)

I know this does not exactly answer your question, however this idea may help you think of other ideas how to work out such situations.

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2  
This does not seem to be a legitimate way around the problem and might constitute a violation of workplace discrimination, but let's not delve into that. –  Seth J Mar 23 '12 at 16:10
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Why is it discrimination if the policy is that no workers are allowed to bring in outside food? –  Gershon Gold Mar 23 '12 at 16:21
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Forcing them to wash and bentch is religious coercion (I was using "discrimination" in the very broad sense). –  Seth J Mar 23 '12 at 16:28
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@SethJ ... and, if he had a worker who objected to the provided lunch itself for religious reasons (e.g. if the worker was a Muslim who holds that Kosher meat doesn't count as Halal or a Hindu who is strictly vegetarian), even that could be challenged on discrimination grounds, just as a Jewish worker could challenge such a situation if the mandatory lunch was not kosher. –  Isaac Moses Mar 23 '12 at 17:17
    
Nachum! God bless him. –  user6591 Oct 15 at 11:34

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