Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: I run a day care center in my home and would like to ask the previous babysitter about a child who applied here for next year. I am interested in knowing if the baby was easy or cried a lot, if his development was on par with his age, if his parents were easygoing or difficult, if they pay in a timely fashion, etc.

These things are important for me to know for the constructive purpose of allowing me to choose the well-behaved and easier children from among the ones who apply.

Am I permitted to inquire about these matters, and is it permissible for the previous babysitter to reply?

A: If you, as the woman who runs the day care, highlight the reason for your inquiry — i.e., that you have many applicants and want to choose the easier ones — then it is permitted for you to ask and for other woman may answer honestly (see Chofetz Chaim, “Rechilus” 9). The woman who replies must obviously intend the constructive purpose, and be careful not to exaggerate.

It must be noted that this heter only applies in the case that you are inquiring about specific details (as delineated above), with the emphasis on choosing easier (calmer) children.

If you inquire in a more general fashion about the child and his family, and just include these questions in the general inquiry, and do not stress that your goal is to choose the easier children from among the applicants, then there is generally no heter to answer the above-mentioned questions, except in unusual cases.

This would be the case regarding the question about paying in a timely fashion. If the parents usually pay within a month or two, it is still not clear that it is permissible to relay the information. If, however, they are much delayed and one would have to chase after them, it would be considered a bad business deal for the babysitter, and it is permissible to tell.

If it is regarding parents who are particular, one should not share the information, except in unusual cases where the parents are constantly on top of the babysitter and inconveniencing or annoying her. All this would have to be told while adhering to the conditions for lashon hara for a constructive purpose.

Please note that one may generally share the information in the two above-mentioned unusual cases, and similar ones, even when not asked.

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.