Ethical Dilemmas


The New York Times has this awesome column on Sundays that deals with ethical dilemmas. This past week end’s was a good one: A lawyer wrote in about his secretary who lost 8 of her front teeth in an accident. Even though she had dental insurance, she didn’t want to get her mouth  fixed because she was absolutely terrified of having the surgery. The lawyer, concerned because she was in a highly visible position at his firm, wanted to know if he could issue her an ultimatum: fix your teeth or get fired.

One of the “ethicists” wondered if the lawyer would have given his secretary an ultimatum had she suddenly put on a huge amount of weight. (Implying of course that he was being shallow and insensitive.) One said he should offer to pay her deductible to motivate her to get it done. Yet another one felt the ultimatum was totally fine because having 8 missing teeth surely must affect this woman’s ability to be understood, especially over the phone.  Hmmmm, Interesting dilemma..legally and ethically.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. heyjude6119 says:

    While I wouldn’t think firing would be necessary, she could be moved to another spot in the firm since she wasn’t as able to perform the duties she was hired for. I worked for a public school district and they reserved the right to assign us a new position at any time. So while we would still be employed, we might be moved to a different building, a different set of duties and possibly a decrease in pay, dependent on the new assignment’s rate. I’m wondering what her employment contract stated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy says:

      I’m also wondering how she wouldn’t be desperate to have her mouth back to normal. I had a chipped front tooth once..a TINY chip!!..and it drove me CRAZY until I was able to have it fixed.😩

      Liked by 1 person

      1. heyjude6119 says:

        Sometimes fear can be a powerful motivator. Evidently her fear of dentists is greater than her vanity. lol
        I think the hampered eating alone would get me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cindy says:

        Hey, I get it. I’m scared of flying..but if the flight attendant could hook me up to a nitrous oxide pump- or even better yet, knock me out completely, ..heck, I’d be a world traveler.


  2. Kudos to her. For me, vanity trumps fear. I suppose that says so much more about my character than hers, ya know? But in the US at least, there’s nothing illegal about firing someone for missing teeth. (where some states WOULD have it be illegal to terminate her for obesity.)

    Actually…lemme think. She COULD make an argument here, if she was fired, that they fired her for her disability – anxiety. Because – her anxiety doesn’t permit her to have medically unnecessary surgery, and if not BUT FOR this disability, she’d fix the teeth and have a job. WHAT DO I WIN.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH and they need to go through the interactive process for other possible accommodations – i.e. could she wear a scarf? If he didn’t do that, he fails.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cindy says:

      I’m sure there would be a major lawsuit..and she’d win for sure…this is AMERICA after all!

      Liked by 1 person

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