Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/831

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811
THE LEGAL STATUS OF SERVANT-GIRLS

Only one instance of robbery had been charged or proved, but it was held, nevertheless, that the answer to the brother was privileged.[1]

It seems, too, that it is within the scope of privileged communications to honestly protect one's interest by informing servants of the dishonesty of a fellow-servant. A man, having dismissed his servant, afterward remarked to two other servants: "I discharged that man for robbing me; he is a thief, and if ever you speak to him again or have anything to do with him I shall consider you as bad as him, and shall discharge you." This was held on a subsequent trial to be a privileged communication.

Let us now look at another right. Servants have well-defined rights in regard to wages. If they perform their part of the contract, they are entitled to a performance on the part of the party of the first part, to wit, the party hiring. Just what the servant has to do has been succinctly stated by Mr. Story: "A servant," says he, "is bound to obey all the just and reasonable commands of his master, to be careful and faithful as to all property committed to his charge, to do with diligence and care his proper and appointed work, and to behave with decency and in a manner consistent with his station as servant. . . .But the command must be just and reasonable, and within the fair scope of his employment."[2]

The right to the wages is not affected by the fact that there is nothing for her to do, if she is on hand and holds herself ready to serve.[3] The hiring being an accomplished fact, and the time of service begun, the right to wages exists. If there is nothing to do, so much the luckier for the servant. As a matter of fact, however, it may be safely said that such an easy state of affairs seldom occurs in the experience of most domestics.

The right to wages is unaffected also by damage done by the servant. For instance, if she injure articles or lose them in the course of the service, the party hiring can not without a specific agreement to such effect, deduct from the servant's wages their value, but must bring her cross-action against the servant for compensation.[4] So that, if a lady deducts for some such cause a portion of her cook's wages, the cook would have a perfect right to sue for the sum deducted. Inasmuch, however, as the party hiring can bring a cross-action, or, as in New York practice, set up a counter-claim in the cook's action, for the lost articles, the cook's net recovery would be nil. In other words, the legal and illegal ways of settling for the damaged or lost articles end in similar results. "It is six of one and half a dozen of the other." As a matter of practice and advisability, the illegal method of deduction, although it overrides the servant's rights, is better for her, as it saves her the expense of a lawsuit merely for a principle. The wise

  1. 16 Q.B., 322
  2. 2 Story on Contr. § 1,304
  3. 32 Barb., 564
  4. 2 Story on Contr., § 1,297