The Workplace

167. One must be careful to observe all the laws of Yichud in the workplace — among employees, employers and clients alike. When seeking employment, one must make sure that the employment is in a place in which there will be no question of Yichud or compromise of tznius.1 It is worthwhile to keep in mind an interesting statistic from the non-Jewish world: the vast majority of extramarital relationships start with an overly-friendly relationship at the workplace. This statistic itself should serve to caution every Jew to be aware of issues of tznius and Yichud in the workplace at all times.

168. Since there are so many variations among workplaces and working conditions, the following halachos are mere guidelines. Each individual case must be discussed with a Rav to ascertain whether or not there is any question of Yichud. Unfortunately in our highly promiscuous generation, immorality in the workplace is quite prevalent. Furthermore, many women now spend most of their day in the working environment. It is therefore crucial that in order to maintain the standards of Kedushas Yisroel, the workplace be free of questions of Yichud and lack of tznius. Even if there is the lure of good pay, a true Bas Yisroel would never compromise on her standards for fleeting monetary rewards.

169. It is most appropriate that in the work environment, men and women should not develop an overly friendly relationship. Some Poskim advise that in the work environment, men should not call women by their first names or vice-versa, in order to create a distance between them. In general, those who work together in an office are in the category of Libo Gas Boh, which places greater restrictions than usual on Yichud.2

Offices

170. A woman may not work in a closed office with a man, or vice-versa. This applies even if they have separate rooms in the same office. For example, it would be prohibited for a woman to work as a secretary for a man even if they had two separate offices within one larger closed office.3

171. If, however, other staff members regularly enter the office without asking for permission, then Yichud is permitted, for their entry constitutes a Pesach Posuach. Even if the door to the office is locked, as long as three other workers have the key and could enter at any time (or there is a combination lock to which three others know the code), then there is no question of Yichud.4

172. Often the office employs many people which, when all are present, does not create a Yichud problem. However, there may be a problem early in the morning or late at night when those arriving early or those working late at the office may be in a Yichud situation. Before one enters the office early or stays late, the question of Yichud must be addressed.5

173. In an office where it would be unusual for anyone to enter unannounced, or in a public office after office hours, a closed but unlocked door would not serve to permit Yichud. Rather, the door must literally be left open to a public place where someone may actually enter.6

174. If a number of people work in an office and they all have the key to the office or know the combination to the lock, then a man and a woman may be alone in the office as long as there is the realistic expectation that another office worker may enter at any moment. This is a very practical halachah applicable during lunch hour when many workers leave the office for lunch, thereby possibly leaving someone in the office in a Yichud situation. If the workers have free access and could return at any time, this constitutes a Pesach Posuach which allows the Yichud to be permitted.7

175. If the office has a bay window through which one may see what is happening in the office, then there is no question of Yichud.8

176. There are those who say that if the office is monitored by closed circuit television and the monitors are in a different room than the people in Yichud, then there is no Yichud problem.9

177. If there are a number of offices in a building, each of which comprises a person and his/her secretary (e.g. a law firm which has many offices comprised of a lawyer and secretary), then it would be permitted for a woman to be a man’s secretary (or vice-versa) as long as the door to their office is closed but not locked. This holds true provided that it is usual for other lawyers or secretaries to enter unannounced for consultation and the like. If staff members rarely enter unannounced, then the door to the secretary’s office must be kept literally open, and when he/she enters the room of the (opposite gender) lawyer, the door must also be kept literally open.10

178. A woman may work in a closed office together with two men (as long as they are kosher11 ). Therefore it would for example be permitted for a woman to work as a secretary for two lawyers, for example, if both are kosher.12 If one of the men leaves the office, or any other Yichud situation arises, she must immediately do something to prevent a Yichud problem, e.g. create a Pesach Posuach.

179. A woman may not be alone in an office with a man with whom she has a close working relationship — Libo Gas Boh — even if her husband is in the city.13 Therefore, a woman may not seek steady employment which involves working together with another man, even in the case of Baaloh B’ir. Consequently, a woman may not work as a man’s secretary and rely solely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir. There must be either a Pesach Posuach or other shomrim in order to permit such a case of Yichud.

180. If a woman’s husband is in the city (Baaloh B’ir), she may go for a business appointment to another man’s office on condition that either a) the door remains unlocked, or b) it is a case of Yichud midrabonon, i.e., Yichud of more than two persons. For example, a married woman in a situation of Baaloh B’ir may visit a man in his office if the man has a female secretary working there.14

181. A woman who is not married may only visit another man in his office if either a) two other women are present,15 or b) one other man is present.

182. A man may have a meeting with two women if the husband of one of the women is in the city.

183. During the day and in the city, a man is permitted to be alone with three women. However, this does not apply to a man who is in the category of Asoko Im Hanoshim or Libo Gas Boh. A man who works closely together with women in an office is certainly in this category, and therefore a man may not work permanently in an office with three women when he has a close working relationship with all of them.16

184. The heter of one man and three women may be used on a temporary basis, e.g. a man may visit another office where there are three women present; however, he must be careful not to become overly friendly with them. If he develops a friendship with them, then he may not be alone with them.17

185. If, however, he has not developed any sort of relationship with one of the three women present at the workplace he is visiting, he is permitted to be in the room with all three, even though he is well-acquainted with the other two.18

186. A man is only permitted to visit a woman in her office if either a) another kosher man is present, b) two other women who are not prutzos are present,19 or c) if another woman is present and there is a case of Baaloh B’ir or d) Baaloh B’ir and the door is unlocked.

187. It is not permitted for two men who are prutzim to work with two women. There is also a serious question about working in an office where there are more than three men and three women but all of them are prutzim. In practice, a Rav should be consulted.20

188. A woman may not work together with three non-Jewish men. The fact that their wives are present does not serve as a heter in such a case.21

189. A man may not be alone in the same building as a woman even if they are on different floors. For example, in an office building with a main entrance that is kept closed, a woman may not be on one floor and a man on another floor if nobody else is in the same building.22

190. Single men and women should consult with a Rav before they accept any employment that would bring them into close working contact with a member of the opposite gender.23

Shops

191. A shop whose door is open to the street presents no question of Yichud, for there is a Pesach Posuach. However, this is only true in the area of the shop which is freely accessible to the public. An inner room which is reserved for staff only would definitely present a question of Yichud (particularly if there is a sign on the door which reads “No entry — staff only”). A man and woman may not be in that room alone, unless the door is left literally open and there is the possibility that someone may enter or observe what is happening in the room.

Closing Time

192. A man who runs a clothing store for women or children and whose main customers are women must take care at closing time to make sure that shutting the main door does not create a question of Yichud.

Cleaning Ladies, Butlers and Maids

193. A married woman in a case of Baaloh B’ir should consult a Rav if she wishes to work as a cleaning lady or nurse in the home of a single man.24

194. An unmarried woman who wishes to work as a housekeeper in the home of an unmarried man must be fully aware of the Yichud issue. She must consult a Rav who will provide her with guidelines.25

195. A Jewish woman should consult a Rav if she wishes to work as a housekeeper or maid in the house of a non-Jew, even if the non-Jew’s wife is present.26

196. A man who wishes to work as a butler in the home of a married couple should consult a Rav.27

197. A man who lives alone should not employ a maid who will live in the house, even if they are careful about Yichud. This is true even if the maid’s son lives with her.28

198. A woman who lives alone should not employ a male butler who will live in the house even if there is no question of Yichud.29

The House of a Non-Jew

199. A woman who needs to go to the house of a non-Jew, whether it is to learn a trade, as a saleswoman, for an interview for work,30 or for any other purpose, must remember that the fact that the non-Jew’s wife is present does not serve to permit Yichud. She must insist upon the door being open, or she should take with her shomrim who will serve to permit the Yichud.31

Workers in the Home

200. If a worker (e.g. plumber, builder, electrician, etc.) is doing some work in the home and only the lady of the house is present, she must be careful to leave the door open or have a shomer present.32 Similarly, if a man comes to deliver a certain item, e.g. an appliance or furniture, she must make sure that a heter of Yichud is in place.33

Teaching

201. A married man is permitted to teach girls in a school or seminary.34 However, he should not be over-familiar with the girls and should make sure that he teaches with the utmost tznius.35 It is also important for the girls in the class to conduct themselves with utmost tznius in the presence of a male teacher. They should make sure that they are sitting in a tznius fashion and that their knees and elbows are covered adequately by their clothing.

202. A man who works in a girls’ school or seminary must be very careful about Yichud. This applies when speaking to a student privately and also when with other female teachers in a staff room. A male principal may not invite one of the students or staff into his office if the door is locked.

203. A single man should not teach young children, either boys or girls, even if there is no question of Yichud, the problem being that the mothers of the children come to pick up the children and he may associate with them.36 He may, however, teach older boys who arrive and return home unaccompanied.37

204. Some Poskim are of the opinion that this halachah only applies where the women would bring their children to the private home of the teacher. However, in most Talmud Torahs, Chadarim and schools today, in which there are many classes and staff members with administration and a Menahel, one may be lenient and allow an unmarried man to teach.38

205. This leniency is certainly applicable in the case of a supply teacher, a teacher of a specific subject, or a leader in a camp.39

206. A woman should not teach young children at home, either boys or girls, the problem being that the fathers of the children come to pick up the children and she may be in Yichud with them.40 (However, she may teach children who come unaccompanied.41 ) In the case of Baaloh B’ir it is permitted.42 Furthermore, if there is a Pesach Posuach, there would be no prohibition for the main concern is that of Yichud.43 Consequently, a woman may run a preschool or kindergarten from her home as long as either there is a case of Baaloh B’ir or there is a Pesach Posuach.

207. In a school in which there are many classrooms and other staff members there is no question of Yichud, and it is permitted for both married and unmarried women to teach.44

208. It is incorrect for a woman to teach boys who have reached the age of Chinuch.45 However, when necessary it is permitted for a woman to teach boys until the age of nine.46 This leniency should only be employed in a school setting.

209. It is permitted for an older girl to be a camp counselor for boys under the age of nine.47

210. A woman may not teach boys physical exercise once they have reached the age of Chinuch.48