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Something Worse Than Being Unemployed

Updated on October 29, 2011

Where do you draw the line?

Faced with a required periodic report that determined the government payments that would be made to a private contractor, a female employee was asked to sign the form which included a statement that her boss had actually supervised her work. She told the boss that when he might actually spend any time at all supervising her actual work, she would sign the form with that included statement. She would not, however, sign the form in the absence of any such supervision of her actual work.

She was fired as "insubordinate" but when a hearing was scheduled to determine whether or not she was eligible for unemployment compensation, and her attorney listed the employees to be called to testify under oath, the claim that she was fired, rather than wrongfuly discharged, was dropped..

Furthermore, when she was called as a witness for another staffer wrongfully "fired," that staffer was also summarily upheld in her claim of wrongful discharge.

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A woman working for a charitable organization was told to lie by her immediate supervisor. Although she had no idea how she could manage financially without that job, she chose to refuse to be party to such a lie and was discharged for a minor offense. That offense was never before the cause for firing, though other emplyees had committed the same offense repeatedly.

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A man requested a short period of leave three months in a row, even though he needed the leave to properly deal with a serious family issue. Repeatedly, and despite consistently outstanding performance evaluations and accumulated leave many times greater than the period of leave he was requesting, he was told "we are too short-handed to give you the time off."

The man resigned with the feeling that he had allowed his employer adequate time to cover his requested absence, and that the leave was necessary and could not be delayed further. As the job was a state government job, a finding had to be made as to whether he was eligible to be hired again in any of that state's thousands of jobs. He was told, at the time he resigned, that his resignation might be used to blackball him from ever holding another state job.

When he challenged the supervisor saying that such a finding would be inconsistent with his eight years of consistently outstanding performance evaluations, he was declared to be eligible for future state employment. The supervisor and state government were indeed short-handed with this unnecessary loss of an outstanding employee who considered further delays an unreasonable sacrifice he could no longer make considering his family's needs.

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When is a job, any job, and the risk of being unemployed, more important than your honor, your honesty, or your family's needs?

Congress passed a law to protect "whistle blowers" who see something seriously wrong and report it at the risk of career discrimination or the loss of their jobs. Many would say that, in practice, the protections the law calls for fall far short of actually protecting such employees.

Choices in these situations are to a degree choices these individuals had to make for themselves. In these years of massive unemployment, those choices may be even more burdensome and difficult, even when "right is right, and wrong is wrong!"

Such choices have existed for centuries, and are likely to confront employees for years to come. The question really is: where do YOU draw the line? Early Christians died for not denying their faith. Soviet citizens spent years at hard labor, or faced death in a variety of forms, for merely questioning a superior. German citizens in the 30's and 40's were forced to obey inhuman orders or be shot. In many of these cases some compromised with their values, while others faced with the same choices held true to their values at extreme sacrifice well beyond simple humiliation.

Where is your line, and how solid is it?

Taking a look:

Have you been faced by a personal, ethical, or legal dilemma at a job? (Comments below are welcome.)

See results


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      I couldn't have said it better. It is sad to feel obligated to work in any job that makes unethical, even immoral, demands on any employee. There has always been a struggle between the sometimes exaggerated "needs of the business" and the rights and dignity of its employees. That is not to say that there is extra room in the hive for drones. "Last hired, first fired" is poor policy, if there are better choices for who really "needs to go!"

    • profile image

      Susan Thomson 6 years ago

      As the author knows, I suffer from PTSD resulting from a work-related accident. As the one year anniversary came, I started to re-evaluate my last year & the advancements that were made. I realized that, due to my work schedule and no insurance, I really had not dealt with the accident and subsequent anxiety attacks at all. Then, I started to realize the additional strains put on me by an employer who was demanding, erratic and oblivious to common human courtesy. I decided that the cost of my soul and my family's needs was too much, in comparison to my hourly wage. I left my household's primary income job 2 weeks later, as my union rep. was explaining to my boss that she HAD to accept my resignation and not give me added stress!

      Now, one month later, I have a moment to reflect. I was at the job for 10 years, so it was hard to leave. But, I hated that job so much that I have never even put in for my last day's pay, because I truly do not ever want to step foot on the facility again. Isn't that awful? What I have put myself through, and my family, was necessary at one point, and served it's purpose...but I had NO IDEA how draining it was until I left. Yes, the finances stink right now and I have no immediate end in sight, but as a family we are healthier, happier & ALL working together to strengthen each other. Amazing!