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.