Q: Recently, a steady client (who’s familiar with my prices), asked me to translate a document and forward it directly to his lawyer. I notified him when I finished my work, and told him what the charge for it was. He decided it was overpriced and sent only half the pay.
I contacted his lawyer and requested that he withhold the document until I was paid in full. The client was offended by the action I took against him, and argued that I had slandered and belittled him. (The lawyer obviously told him that he was annoyed at him for holding up the case because of a minimal fee that he refused to pay.)
Was my abovementioned conversation with the lawyer considered lashon hara and, if so, how can I correct it?
A: Initially, you should have contacted your client directly to collect the payment due you. Had he refused to pay the amount in full, you would then have been responsible to decide on a halachically approved course of action. The choices would have been bringing your case to a din Torah or withholding the document through the lawyer. (In general, if a din Torah is likely to prolong a case unnecessarily, one is permitted to choose a different method, as in withholding the client’s document until the fee is paid in full.)
If you did not first try the abovementioned options before approaching the lawyer, you transgressed in the sin of lashon hara and should repent by charatah, viduy and kabbalah al ha’assid. Additionally, look out for an opportunity to appease your offended client.
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The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.