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Business Ethics - bidding, competition, etc.
Question received: I know that it is important in Judaism not to encroach on another person's livelihood. Many businesses in my area have hired maintenance companies which do many tasks. I want to offer a specific specialized style of service in one particular thing, which seems to be in demand, but the maintenance companies don not offer that. Is it ideal, then, to ask each of these companies if I may work with it to do a freelance-type of job at their client properties, which would enable them to get a percentage of my wages from the job? And also to offer to train them for free in this different style of service which has been less common in the business so far? I thought this seemed like a good solution but I don not know what the Torah-law considerations might be. As always, I care not only about what is permissible but also about what is ideal.

Answer: Here are some precepts for Gentiles / Noahides in similar situations, from The Divine Code, Part VII (The Prohibition of Theft), Chapter 8 on Stealing or Encroaching on Real Estate Property and related topics.

8:15. If a worker was trying to make an arrangement to work for an employer, and a second worker comes and knowingly makes this arrangement before and in place of the first worker, then the second worker has transgressed the prohibition against encroachment on the rights of another person to property and livelihood. He is called a wicked person [by the Sages of the Talmud], since with a small amount of effort, he could have made the same arrangement with another employer, and instead he is taking away another person’s livelihood without justification.
Likewise, if one is negotiating to rent or buy land, a house, or movable objects, and a second person comes and precedes him to buy or rent it, this action is immoral, and the second person is called a wicked person. This only applies if the second person could find a similar item or property, even if it will require a little more effort, and he is deliberately grabbing the opportunity from the first person. But if there are no available opportunities [to rent or buy] comparable to those being offered to the first person, or if the deal is very advantageous, he is not called evil for trying to procure that opportunity for himself, even though his action is detrimental to the other person who was trying to obtain it.
Also, this only applies if the other parties had already completed a verbal agreement, but had not made a legally binding contract or signed an agreement to formalize the deal. If there was no agreement yet between those parties, another person is morally allowed to put forth a competing offer in order that the renter or seller will accept his terms, and he will receive the business agreement or the purchase.[1]

8:17. It is permissible to open a new store next to the store of another person, even though it will cause the other person to have this new local competition in his business. Even if the new store lowers the prices and gives out gifts to the customers in order to draw in more business, this is not considered encroachment on property rights, because the owner of the new store can say to the other store owner that he is free to do the same thing as well.[2]
Although the above mentioned practices ... are permitted, a pious person will nevertheless distance himself from these practices or anything similar, and he will not encroach upon the business of another person at all.[3] The Sages [of the Talmud] have commented that the verse[4] - [he] who has done his fellowman no evil - refers to one who does not encroach upon another’s business. Thus, doing such a thing in any way is called evil.

[1] Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat ch. 237.
[2] Rema Choshen Mishpat 156:5.
[3] Rambam, Laws of Ethics, end of ch. 5.
[4] Psalms 15:3.

-----end quote-----

From this we see that in your case, it would be forbidden to go a maintenance service company and convince them to hire you if it would be at the expense of the company letting go one of their workers, in order to make his position open for you to take over.
But if you go and ask to be hired to fill a job opening, it is OK for you to promote your special skill, so the company would decide to hire you instead of other applicants. It would even be permitted for you to take the position of someone else who had been verbally promised the position, but had not yet signed a contract, but that would be an immoral [i.e. evil] thing to do.
It is also permitted for you to go into open business competition with the maintenance companies, for the particular service you want to offer. It would be immoral [i.e. evil] to take away existing contracts that the maintenance companies had already procured, but it would not be immoral for you to compete with them for new contracts.
I do not see a gain of any moral advantage to you from training your competitor's workers for free in your unique skill, so they would be able to compete with you in that area. It also doesn't make any sense from a business perspective. That would be like opening a new store with a new product that no other stores carry, and then giving away your product to other stores so they could compete with you. Why would you do that?? It could be part of a business plan to both offer your services to clients, and let other companies hire you to train their workers, but you might well find that in a relatively short time, the other companies will take over the market in that area, and you will have no buyers for your service (unless you resort to more aggressive price competition, or other perks), and there will be nobody left to train (because the trained workers at the other companies can then do the training for new workers who get hired by their companies).

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RE: Business Ethics - bidding, competition, etc. - by Director Michael - 03-30-2019, 01:11 AM

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