Q: After an extensive search for a suitable workplace, I am presently employed as a successful secretary in a large office. However, I have an issue with a co-worker who consistently veers into topics of lashon hara, causing other workers and myself to listen to forbidden speech. Time and again, I’ve tried to appeal to her gently and to follow the Chofetz Chaim’s suggestion of leaving the room with an obvious expression of displeasure, but to no avail. I am stumbling over these transgressions often enough, and have difficulty blocking out what I’ve heard. Is it fitting for me to continue working in the place that is the source of my livelihood, or must I begin my search again?
A: Halachically, when faced with a choice of forbidden speech or losing a job, one is required to forfeit the job rather than hear or speak lashon hara. In this specific case, however, it is unclear whether you are actually violating the issur of listening to lashon hara, and it seems that, in the meantime, you have managed to withstand the test by following the halachic requirements. However, because of the constant danger of serious transgressions and the chance that you may not hold out against this difficult nisayon, you are morally obliged to have a friendly, serious discussion with your co-worker. You should point out to her the halachah in Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Lashon Hara 1:6) and appeal to her senses, explaining that it would be a matter of you having to leave the job. It is reasonable to assume that a conversation as such would bring the desired results. In the event of no noticeable change, you should request a change of room, etc. After all is said and done, you may have to begin your job search anew.
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