What halachic issues are involved in permitting or forbidding the use of a recruiter that will approach currently employed employees to attempt to poach them for a rival business?
It seems to be allowed, under circumstances. The following information can be found in great detail in the Sefer: Headlines Halachic Debates Of Current Events: Poaching Employees from Rival Companies by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein
אבל אם שכר בעה"ב מלמד אחד, יכול בע"ה אחר לשכור אותו מלמד עצמו
However, in the event that Reuven hires a Melamed, Shimon is permitted to employ the same Melamed
Rav says that a laborer may reconsider and quit his job, even at midday (Bava Metzia 10a):
Rava responded: But doesn’t Rav say that a laborer may reconsider and quit his job, even at midday? Evidently, the relationship between the employer and the laborer is structured to the benefit of the laborer.
The Tosfos mentioned above only seems to apply when there can not be found "another Melamed":
דנימא ליה 'אין רצוני אלא לזה, שהרי כמדומה לי שזה ילמוד בני יפה ממלמד אחר.'
Because he (Shimon) can counter 'I want only this Melamed, since I get the impression that my son will learn more from him than from any other Melamed'.
Also relevant: Shulchan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat 237:1
The opinion of the Tosfos regarding that it is accepted, only if there can not be found "another Melamed" also seems to be explained in the work "Gray Matter IV" by Rabbi Chaim Yachter:
However, with regard to an item not readily available elsewhere for the same price, explains Rabbeinu Tam, “There is no prohibition, for if he (the intruder) does not obtain the specific item, he will not find another one.”
The only prohibition for poaching is in case of an עֶבֶד עִבְרִי- "A Hebrew Slave". And if the poaching results in damage to the livelihood of the competitor (see: משפטי התורה 1:50 by Rav Tzvi Shpitz) (Headlines Halachic Debates Of Current Events: Poaching Employees from Rival Companies, p.7)
So, concluding there are a few interesting points that can be taken from the commentary of the Tosfos and from the work by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein:
- According to the Tosfos, poaching is allowed, only if an agency "really wants" "this Melamed" and "this Melamed cannot be found elsewhere".
- According to Ravi Tzvi Shpitz, poaching is not allowed if it would "damage" the livelihood of the employee
- As a employee, you are "free to go" whenever you want, since you are only "G-ds'slave"
There are however, different opinions on this explanation, see for example what Rabbi Doniel Neustadt writes:
It is prohibited for one to offer his services to an employer if he will be taking away another person’s job
This statement seems to be related to the explanation given by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz.