What ethical considerations are there in your choice about what to do in this situation?

Published by Stephen D. Smith

Jan 15, 2022

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Scenario
You are a 1600-2400 (4:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.) shift supervisor. It’s Wednesday at 1615 and your subordinate John comes to you and asks you if he can have leave (take off) Friday. He explained to you that, as you undoubtedly recall, his daughter is pregnant with his first grandchild. As it turns out, his daughter’s doctor has decided that, instead of letting the pregnancy go into the following week when his daughter is due and when John is already scheduled for leave (already off Saturday and Sunday), the doctor has decided to induce the labor on Friday at a local hospital. John said that while he fully expects his grandchild to be delivered well before he’d have to leave the hospital to report for his shift, he really wants to be sure that he’s there for the birth of the child so he wants to take off.
Facts:
Your shift is at the minimum level for Friday due to several employees being out of town in training.
Your organization’s policy specifies that employees may only take “sick leave” (but not personal, compensatory, or annual leave, the type of leave approved for being off without being sick) when a shift is at a minimum.
The limit on the type of leave available is due to the budget implications of paying overtime to fill spots to get the shift back to minimum levels and because of the risk to the public and other employees if the position is not able to be filled.
Sick leave is only authorized for an employee’s illness or injury that would compromise the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties or for a qualifying Family medical Leave issue.
While Family Medical Leave (FML) is not well defined in the policy and you’ve heard of other supervisors extending the privileges under FML to employees related to the birth of a grandchild, you know from conversations with friends in Human Resources that the birth of a grandchild does not qualify as a “sick leave” eligible event and you’ve confirmed that through independent research.
Sick leave in your organization is unlimited and not a number of hours “earned” over a period of time as part of a compensation package.
Because sick leave is unlimited, the agency has adopted a system of checks and balances.
Employees on sick leave are to confine themselves to home, or a medical facility and must limit their travels to a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or medical facility. Employees who travel from home on sick leave are required to, except in a medical emergency, notify their supervisor of that fact before leaving home.
Supervisors who have a reason to believe that an employee on sick leave is not, in fact, sick or injured, are required to call the employee’s home number and verify that they are home.
Because you are charged with completing the payroll submission and tracking the budget overtime expenditures for the shift, from a “paperwork” perspective, if you were to authorize John to take leave other than sick leave for Friday, you would likely be the only one to know that that happened.
You consider John to be a good employee with a good work ethic.
Generally, John’s peers have positive feelings about him.
You know that, despite your positive feeling about John as an employee and the generally positive feeling he engenders in his peers, those above you do not share those opinions of him.
Your supervisor is new to the shift, so you have no feel for whether she is a “stickler” for the rules.
Rules for the scenario:
You must consider the facts as written and are not to change the facts or assume any facts that are not specifically stated.
You are not to propose a different way that the situation could be handled. For example, asking, “couldn’t you just ask another organization/agency to cover the responsibilities John would have…” The rigidity is not to complicate the scenario. The fact is that the scenario could account for all the “couldn’t you just” propositions. In that case the scenario would be several pages long and would be a completely different exercise.
Questions:
Consider both the decision to let John take leave on Friday and the decision to deny his request.
What would be the ethical considerations (factors that influence what you should do) of each decision?
What individuals, groups or entities are interested parties (those possibly impacted—often called stakeholders) in the scenario?
Suppose you decline to authorize John to take off Friday night. Suppose he is angry that you denied his leave. Further suppose that when you arrived at work Friday, you got a message that John had called in sick?
What ethical considerations are there in your choice about what to do in this situation?
Are the stakeholders different in this choice?

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