Workplace Ethical Dilemma: Being a Law-abiding Citizen or a Humane Person? What makes humans higher than animals, I believe, is our capa to make moral judgments in varied situations. As Hayhurst (2009) explained, to make an ethical decision any time, any where, and any how, requires one to think squarely weighing what is right and what is wrong. (p. 26) The choices we make define our values, and consequentially the kind of person we are. (Rowley, as cited in Ezarik, 2003, p. 7) We all make decisions; we all confront a dilemma because of many considerations which often than not are dictated by our own ethical standards and coming up with a decision is not always easy.
This is more evident in the workplace. But still, what leads us to our dilemma also frees us from it. As Sutliffe said “The best way to be prepared for a hard decision is to have a strong commitment to ethics, especially when dealing with the details (as cited in Ezarik, 2003, p. 7). ” To this I agree as what my experience taught me. The ethical question I did encounter is to whether or not I should report to proper authority the unlawful practice of the company I am working in.
But I knew too well that by doing so, I would surely lose the job that I badly needed and that I might ruin the lives of many other innocent people. I worked as a cashier in a retail store owned by Martha. She had been very good and considerate to me because she knew I was a working student. In fact, I enjoyed and felt safe working with her in the store.
There were seven of us employed in the store: Two cashiers – I and Jane, a fifty-year old Filipina elementary school teacher in her country; two sales ladies – Fernanda and Maria, both Mexicans aged 30 and 33 consecutively; and three helpers – John, an 18-year old American, Nathan, a 23-year old Black American, and Lee, a 23-year old Chinese. The multi-cultural component of Martha’s employees made me admire her more because she seemed to embody a broad-minded and fair employer.
In fact, she always tells us that color should not deny anybody of any job opportunity. This principle seemed to make us employees be respectful of our cultural-differences which made our working relations cordial and enjoyable. Martha made sure that we had our bonding time together that we ate together at lunch breaks, sharing what we had: food, stories, problems, dreams, and laughter. In a certain way, Martha helped us become closer to one another. I never thought that this ideal situation would place me in a dilemma. One day, in one of our bonding time, I came to know that Jane and Lee were illegal immigrants and that they were being paid only half the salary that their job was required by law.
The first shocking thing that came to my senses was that Martha was blatantly violating the law and worse through this was actually gaining more. I knew that as a law-abiding citizen, I should be reporting this unlawful employment practice to proper authority, but if I would, many people, including the innocent ones would be adversely affected. Martha would surely pay high, might even lose her permit, and would lose her source of living.
Jane and Lee would be deported and would never fulfill their dream of living in the United States – their American dream. The rest of us, who had nothing to do with the problem, but were similarly working hard to earn a living, would in the same manner be surely taken out of job. Indirectly, even the US government would lose income tax from us, and instead would be its additional burden to its social welfare state. Martha might be my boss, but in this situation, I was more in a decisive position, whether or not I would report her to authorities.
But I was caught in an ethical dilemma. First, if I would report her to authority, I would surely get a reward and I would prove that I was indeed a law abiding citizen. But could I sleep at night knowing that I had jeopardized the business of the very person who had shown kindness to me, who had risk helping illegal immigrants, who had given employment to us, and who had given us an ideal workplace?
Second, I asked myself, if giving jobs to illegal immigrants unethical or unlawful? Or, if coming to America illegally morally wrong? Who in the first place defined national borders? Third, was Marha’s kindness to us her way of making us her silent accomplice? If I wouldn’t report her to authority, would it mean then that I condoned her? I do believe that giving people equal opportunity for a decent living is always right any where, any time.
So for me, it doesn’t mean that Martha’s employing of illegal immigrants although unlawful according to US law may necessarily be immoral. People have no choice but to work for a living, and denying them a decent job may instead forced them into criminal resort, which we all know is worse. So, Martha in fact saved us from further societal problem. But looking at a larger perspective, allowing these illegal immigrants to work without working permits would be denying citizens the work they should be enjoying. Yet on the other hand, these citizens have more good chances of living because they are taken cared of by the government unlike the illegal immigrants. However, I do not condone the practice of exploiting others out of their predicament or misery.
If Martha is truly sincere in helping other people, then she should have instead paid them the salary that commensurate their job. After evaluating the possible outcome, and its pros and cons if ever I reported Martha to authority, I decided not to, because I don’t think reporting her to authority would make things right.
I believe that not all legal is moral and vice versa. And this to my judgment is one of them. Instead, I took all my courage to talk things out privately with Martha. I showed her the legal consequences of her action and the moral issues surrounding it. I told her that it was not yet too late to correct things legally and morally. I suggested that if she truly was sincere in helping Jane and Lee, she should have instead helped them acquire working visa permit.
This would be her way of returning to them the short changes she had with their salaries. Through this, too, she would truly give them the equal opportunity of living here in America. Now having enrolled in this program, looking back, I still see myself doing the same thing, as an employee. Because I would be very guilty all my life thinking that seven people lost their jobs just because I wanted to be a law-abiding citizen and worst, that I turned against the very people who trusted me and in fact, did nothing wrong to me.
I believe that good things beget good things. However, as a manager, I wouldn’t do what Martha did – employing people without working permits not because it is illegal or immoral, but because it is high risk to business. I would instead help them acquire their working permits for them to work legally. Anyway, making money and doing the right thing are not ‘mutually incompatible goals’ (Borremans, as cited in Analyze this, 2007, p. 84). ” References Analyze this. (2007). Economist, 382 (8512): 84-89.
Retrieved from http: //search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=ulh&AN=23817925&site=src-live Ezarik, Meissa M. (2003). Getting it right. Career World, 32 (2): 6-11. October. Retrieved from http: //search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=mih&AN=10913940&site=src-live Hayhurst, Chris. (2009). Tough call. Career World, 37 (4): 26-29. January. Retrieved from http: //search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=mih&AN=35794392&site=src-live