by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

L’chvod Rabbi Hoffman,

My daughter was a counselor in camp this past summer.  The camp collected her tips from the campers as they do from all campers.  It was pulled from their bank accounts.

Later, when the summer came to an end, my counselor daughter did not receive any of the tips that were clearly collected on her behalf.  The claim was that because she received Summer Youth Employment Program (“Youth Corp”), she wasn’t included in the staff tipping pool.

In other words, whatever was collected from the parents toward her, was, without her knowledge or consent redistributed to other camp staff. 

She obviously was very upset. So were others who found themselves uninformed of this until after tips were handed out, only to find themselves un-included. None of this was mentioned prior to the summer.  They could have worked at another camp, had they known.

Parents also have a right to know that the tips collected is going to other staff and not their child’s counselor.  Let’s keep in mind that, it isn’t as though the camp paid her. She was chosen by lottery from the NYSEP program and earned minimum wage from the government.  She worked many more hours that were unpaid as well.  Is this halachically correct? What can she do when complaining about the unfairness (to the parents who thought they were tipping their child’s counselor, not others and her being withheld her rightfully expected tipping income), has yielded nowhere.   Please advise.

A Parent.

Dear Parent,

If this camp is actually doing this, it is a severe violation of several very, very serious halachos.  The Gemorah in Bava Metzia 111a explains, according to Rashi that there are 5 lavim being violated.

  1. It is GEZEL (See Shulchan Aruch CM 348:2, see also Sefer HaChinuch #259).
  2. It is a violation of Lo Salin (See Shulchan Aruch CM 339:1,2 see also Sefer HaChinuch #588)
  3. It is a violation of Oshaik (See Shulchan Aruch CM 359:8 – see also Sefer HaChinuch #258)

And so many Psukim are also violated.  “ shall give him his pay, nor shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor and sets his heart upon it; lest he cry against you to Hashem, and it should be sin to you” (Dvarim 24: 15).  “The wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning” (VaYikra 19:13).

In addition, it is a violation of the law to take away the tips that people gave and to re-distribute them.  This is a situation that should be rectified by the camp immediately.

To be dan lekaf z’chus – they are probably unaware of the fact that iti s aviolation of halacha to do this.  As to the question of whether the owners of the camp are pasul l’aidus, that is a more complex issue – depending upon whether they knew that they were violating an issur or not.

Perhaps a new system should be enacted so that this nisayon should not even exist – such as zelling the counselor directly.  If this issue is not resolved in the next few days, we can reach out to the camp and the camp Rav, please be in touch.

As reported by VINnews