Friend: Do I report my boyfriend to HR?
December 12, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

For a friend: "My boyfriend and I work for the same company. After a couple of years, we are becoming very serious. I work in human resources. He works elsewhere in the building. As part of building our total trust in each other, he told me that he was once arrested for a non-violent, non-drug crime and jailed for a few days. Do I report him?"

She continues,

"It was a case of bad life events mixed with bad company and youthful spirits. He pled guilty, did some community service and probation, and has been a straight arrow ever since. This was 20 years ago. I know all his details to be true with absolute certainty. He is totally and inarguably a good person and a good citizen and hasn't so much as stolen a grape in a grocery store—except, he lied on his application for his current job because he didn't think it mattered any more. Now that I know about the arrest and the conviction, I am obligated by my job to report him.

"No matter what, I think he's the one for me. I do prize the relationship more than my job. The way I see it, I have these options:

1. Report him with his knowledge. Hope he's not fired. Deal with it if he is.
2. Report him without his knowledge. Hope he's not fired and doesn't break up with me. Deal with either if they happen.
3. Quit my job so I don't have to report him. It's a good job, though.
4. Have him quit his job so I don't have to report him. It's a good job, though."

From Mo: I normally don't believe in posting questions for a friend (get an account!) but this one's a peach of a dilemma. I've cleaned up her question and paraphrased. What would you do in her shoes?
posted by Mo Nickels to Human Relations (245 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jesus Christ, no.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2005


Nope, why narc on him?
posted by strangelove at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2005


of course not
posted by andrew cooke at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2005


Nothing. Why does she feel a higher degree of loyality to her company than to her boyfriend?

I'd let it slide.
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2005


5. Don't report him.

There's no need to feel a sense of obligation towards a senseless rule.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2005


5. stay working and keep your silly mouth shut.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Er, I mean: Do nothing.
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2005


No. No. No. Let me repeat: No.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2005


A resounding no, I wouldn't even consider it.
posted by meta87 at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005


This question makes me sad.
posted by reverendX at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005 [2 favorites]


So much for building trust. The fact that she's even considering narcing on this guy says she's not worth it. Jeez.
posted by black8 at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005


Do nothing. Christ.
posted by fire&wings at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005


Human resources people make me sick. Why would any company be worth more to you than your actual life? It's the capitalist version of the KGB narks in the USSR.

Still, I guess things are different in the US, where a high proportion of people don't even take all of their meagre annual vacation entitlement
posted by bonaldi at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2005


I agree: just don't do anything. No one quits, no one gets fired, everyone is happy.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2005


If he told her in the spirit of 'building our total trust in each other' why on earth is her first instinct to betray that trust by telling the company?

If they didn't find out about it in the background check, let it go.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


No.
posted by Radio7 at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2005


Let me play devil's advocate here - Is the crime the type that potential clients would like to know about? For example, a school janitor with a prior sex offender conviction? Then yes, you should report it.

Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
posted by quibx at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2005


I don't even think The NY Times ethicist would be uptight enough to suggest going with any of those 4 options. I'm with everyone else saying, "No. Jeez."
posted by MarkAnd at 11:53 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


You should have your friend ask her boyfriend whether or not to report him; after all, he was honest enough to tell her about the arrest - why can't she be honest enough to tell him that she was considering it?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:53 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


An obligation to do something that is wrong has no force. Penalizing someone (as the company is very likely to do) for something he did 20 years ago and has more than atoned for is clearly wrong. So, your friend is under no compulsion to turn him in.

All four of those options are way too extreme. Each and every single one will lead to bad consequence stemming from a questionable policy. This kind of overzealous adherence to the letter of the law can be extremely damaging to one's self and friends. Your friend should learn that sometimes we have to just let things go, for the greater good.

5) Do nothing with this knowledge. Do not tell the company. Do not tell anyone else at the company. Just let it go.
posted by oddman at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2005


Again, NO.
posted by xoe26 at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2005


Wow. AskMeUnanimity. Yes, option #5.

Also, with all due respect, I think the question-asker should take a week off work to think about... things.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2005


No. No. No.

If I told someone I was dating something like this in confidence, and they felt their duty to their company was greater than their feelings for me, I'd reconsider the relationship.
posted by dial-tone at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2005


Why make something out of nothing? This is a no-brainer. You need smarter friends.
posted by Makebusy7 at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2005


Interesting that few people here seem to think that two good jobs being in play is not factor in the decision-making. If she doesn't report him, then they *both* have to hope that the information never comes out elsewise.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2005


another vote for 5. Do absolutely goddamn nothing.
posted by ancamp at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2005


Mo Nickels writes "Interesting that few people here seem to think that two good jobs being in play is not factor in the decision-making. If she doesn't report him, then they *both* have to hope that the information never comes out elsewise."

Why? The only people who know that she knows are the two of them.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:00 PM on December 12, 2005


No, he paid his dues. These kinds of reporting requirements are wrong and should be themselves banned. (IE: the same way we disallow questions about, race/ethnicity/sexual orientation/etc as de facto discriminatory.)

These sorts of questions are standard fare on food service applications across the country - how the hell do we expect someone to move on and make something out of their life if we brand them with the ex-con stamp for the rest of their natural born lives? No wonder recidivism is such a problem.


If she likes this person, then there's a good chance she could be with him long after she's with this company. If she doesn't like him anymore, then she should break up with him and take a long hard look at her own motives.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2005


Do nothing, for god's sake.

And what is with HR people? Man. What a bunch of stooges.
posted by contessa at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2005


Good god. Woman feels more loyalty to her HR position at some corporation than to some guy who she claims might be "the one"? How's that work?

Don't report him. Wow.
posted by xmutex at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2005


5! Lordy.
posted by gai at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2005


Doesn't anonymous asker have at least some legal rights in this case? In that she's not legally obligated to snitch on someone she's romantically involved with, even if they aren't married yet?
posted by geoff. at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2005


to quibx, and others who implied it was drug related: the question states "non-violent, non-drug crime". I think it also means "non-sexual" too.

As to the question, please, please don't even ask this - how the hell does someone gets so brain-washed by the "company" to even consider committing such a cruel, evil act. I can only hope this person's boyfriend finds out who she really is before it is too late.
posted by nkyad at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2005


I think you have to separate out your roles here. There is you, the girlfriend (presuming this is a hetereosexual relationship), and there is you, the HR person. In my view, the obligation to report applies to you when you find out things *in the course of your work as an HR person.* Conversely, you are not at all obligated to report things you find out when you are out of that role and being the girlfriend.

Since you and he work for the same company, you and he will have to work on separating these roles anyway. I mean, you won't be gossiping about HR-related info to him after work, will you? And neither should you "use" any boyfriend related info when in your HR role. Suppose he decides to stay home from work for a day, and decides that the best way to do it is to pretend that he's sick. Even though you may know that he's cheating, you must remember that you know this information in your girlfriend mode, and that you may not use it in an HR related capacity.

The two of you will have to negotiate these boundaries out, and be very clear about them, so you can avoid the awkward situations that are bound to come up in this kind of dual role relationship.
posted by jasper411 at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2005 [2 favorites]


I vote for option #5 as well. In fact, I'm surprised your friend didn't list #5 as a option herself; she seems to feel that the obligation to report is an absolute given. So, if she really really believes that she MUST take some action, that it would be somehow morally wrong or otherwise unacceptable to do nothing (which I don't understand, but hey, I've never been in HR), then I think she should go with option #3, wherein she pays a price but he does not. She said herself that the relationship is more important than the job.

Boy, I sure hope there's no company policy against employees dating one another . . . .
posted by JanetLand at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2005


Why? The only people who know that she knows are the two of them.

His arrest is a matter of public record. All it takes is some kind of security sweep at his job for his past to be uncovered. I'm not saying it's likely in their industry, but once someone started looking, it would take about 15 minutes in state-run databases to find out his criminal past.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2005


Oooh, I like jasper411's answer very much indeed.
posted by JanetLand at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2005


If I told someone I was dating something like this in confidence, and they felt their duty to their company was greater than their feelings for me, I'd reconsider the relationship.

Hear hear.
posted by ancamp at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2005


Interesting that few people here seem to think that two good jobs being in play is not factor in the decision-making. If she doesn't report him, then they *both* have to hope that the information never comes out elsewise.

It's a fucking job. If your friend thinks that's more important than "the one," she should just go ahead and buy twenty cats and get a head start on her depressing spinster phase.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2005


Interesting that few people here seem to think that two good jobs being in play is not factor in the decision-making. If she doesn't report him, then they *both* have to hope that the information never comes out elsewise.

If it came out and anyone cared, do you think that they'd fire both the employee and his HR partner? I can't imagine a situation in which that would happen, but maybe I'm not thinking broadly enough (do they work for the CIA or something?). If it's the case that only the arrested employee would get fired, then why do anything now?
posted by MarkAnd at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2005


Of course she's not obligated to do anything with information she gained outside of the workplace. She's an employee, not a god-damned spy.

Christ.
posted by metaculpa at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2005


In my experience, corporations only go on fishing expeditions into employees lives when they've already decided they're going to fire you - they're just looking for documentation to support their decision.

If both people are doing well at their jobs, it shouldn't be an issue. If it didn't come out during the background check, why do they think it's going to come out now?
posted by Space Kitty at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2005


If for no other reason than to strengthen the consensus, NO. Do not report it.
posted by Steve Simpson at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2005


Add me to the pile, but don't just do nothing. Think long and hard about getting your loyalties straight. And this guy is the one? Sheesh!
posted by pmbuko at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2005


This was 20 years ago.
Don't you think this is beyond the statute of limitations?
posted by plinth at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2005


If she's really bothered by this, she should ask him to confess.

(That she's even considering "reporting" him is fucked up)
posted by cillit bang at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2005


We haven't considered the fact that Mo Nickels also knows. What are Mo Nickels motivations here? To what depths might Mo Nickels sink in order to procure money in time of need? Yes, we must ask these questions, troublesome though the answers might be.
posted by xmutex at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2005


Mo Nickels writes "His arrest is a matter of public record. All it takes is some kind of security sweep at his job for his past to be uncovered. I'm not saying it's likely in their industry, but once someone started looking, it would take about 15 minutes in state-run databases to find out his criminal past."

But why is her job in jeopardy? All she would have to say is "he never told me". Are they just going to assume that she knew about it and fire her on the spot? Is she expected to perform a background check upon becoming involved with the guy?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


whether the decision is to tell the company or not (and i would lean towards not, but i don't agree it is a flat-out given), it seems to me that discussing it with the boyfriend is a good idea. that seems to fit with the whole idea of building trust, and he certainly deserves to know what an awkward position he has put you in.
posted by jimw at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2005


Personally, I'd go with #5.

Also, you've stated that they both have good jobs, but that your friend thinks that the guy is "the one". IMHO, there's not much to weight here: a job versus a relationship and a job versus ruining someone's life (and someone that he/she cares about).

There are other good jobs out there.
posted by rexgregbr at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2005


Now that I know about the arrest and the conviction, I am obligated by my job to report him.

Note to self: never date anyone in HR.

What would you do in her shoes?

If I were in love with the person, I'd probably pretend I never knew about it and would plead ignorance if anyone said otherwise. If I didn't find out about it in the course of my job duties, I'd assume it was none of my professional business.

If you know the guy in question, you should clue him in that his beloved is considering ratting on him.
posted by wheat at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2005


No, she shouldn't report him, but I think she's morally and ethically obliged to inform him that she's a soulless corporate wench who'll rat him out if he so much as steals a paperclip.
posted by speranza at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2005


just to answer mo nickel's comment up the thread a bit - the company does not know that this woman(?) knows. if they find out that the man knows, then they may fire him, just as before. but that is all. nothing else has changed, unless the other person does something mind-bogglingly stupid.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2005


I will file this under "If You've Got To Ask..."
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2005


This falls into the attorney-client, confessor-confessee, husband-wife, partner-partner confidentiality department, and that confidentiality tends to override any reporting obligation, ethically as well as legally. For example in many states spouses are excused from testifying in court against one another. Assuming this is a long-term relationship, you're going to have to be able to share lots of confidences with each other. You did not find this out in the course of your HR duties, you found it out as part of a relationship. None of the above options make any sense. All of them have the potential to rock the relationship. Go with No. 5: Tell him you're glad he told you, you're glad he's past it, and you're going to keep mum about it.
posted by beagle at 12:12 PM on December 12, 2005


mr_roboto writes "All she would have to say is 'he never told me'."

Oh, see, she can't do that, because that would be LYING TO THE COMPANY - and LYING TO THE COMPANY is grounds for termination with extreme prejudice, banishment from all honest jobs and confiscation of your first-born.
posted by nkyad at 12:12 PM on December 12, 2005


... he did community service and some probation ...
It seems that the justice system has decided that he has already paid the price for his crime. Why make him (possibly) pay again? Given the sentence, it doesn't sound like it was a serious crime either.

"No. Jeez."
posted by lowlife at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2005


She's gonna hate my guts because the consensus (damn! what a scrum) is what I told her. Do nothing. I didn't mention it in the post because I didn't want her to accuse me of biasing the comments.

My argument is this: we are humans, therefore we are liars. No rational person always tells the truth, always tells all of it, or completely avoids lying. So her dilemma is whether to lie to the boyfriend or lie to the company.

She really does have a great job: lots of travel, great salary, cool boss, plenty of perks. So she doesn't want to lie to the job.

She really loves the boyfriend. So she doesn't want to lie to him.

She loves the job and the boyfriend, so she wants to obey the social or contractual obligations with both.

Her problem is, she wants to feel perfectly moral, perfectly in love, and perfectly employed.

I told her she's just looking for an escape from the human condition and that she should get used to feeling ill at ease with the world.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2005 [2 favorites]


If he told you this in the context of a relationship, then you must deal with it in the context of the relationship. That rules out option #2. It utterly rules out option #2.

This guy doesn't sound like a bad person. At some point it's got to be OK to leave the past in the past.
posted by voidcontext at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2005


Mo, with all due respect, I think that you're making an ethical dilemma of something that is simply practical. There is only one job on the line here, IF someone does an unlikely security sweep.

Not only do I not think that she should tell the company, but I think that because she did not offer #5 as an alternative (even as just an alternative) she should tell the BF she has been considering turning him into the bosses. He can then make his own choice about how much he trusts her. If she isn't willing to do that, she should reconsider her value system.

Mo, if you know the BF I think you should consider telling him about her dilemma. After all, wouldn't you be concerned if your SO was more concerned about paper rules than relationship trust?
posted by OmieWise at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2005


The crime was 20 years ago, and being a non-violent crime, I doubt the guy would get fired (at least, here's to hoping!)

But seriously, I'm with the rest of you. Don't report him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:16 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Well, the way she sees it is that her job *is* on the line. Because if she was asked if she knew about his arrest and conviction, she would feel obligated to say "yes." We may call her naive or stupid, but she's that as ethical and moral.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:17 PM on December 12, 2005


...she sees that as ethical and moral...
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2005


Here's another wrench: if he committed this crime when he was underage, the records may well be sealed, and he is under no obligation to report them. IANAL, but I have seen this, so I'd love to hear a lawyer pipe up.
posted by frykitty at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2005


If her ethical obligation is so compelling, she should quit her job. But take the time to line up another job first.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2005


That sentence worked well. He is under no obligation to report it, as in, the crime.
posted by frykitty at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2005


Report him. Also, on the way home, citizen arrests for anyone jaywalking. It must be nice to be ethically unassailable.

To paraphrase an earlier poster, this is fucking depressing.
posted by docpops at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2005


that's not ethical and moral. ethical and moral is facing up to real life and making hard decisions that are right instead of blindly following the simplified rules you were told as a child.

grow the fuck up.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2005 [5 favorites]


If her idea of ethical and moral is to even consider ratting out her boyfriend to a company... She sounds like a lovely young lady.
posted by letitrain at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Don't report it. It's 20 years ago. There's really no reason to go and be a snitch about it now, unless you're trying to get your ass dumped.
Did you two get together while at work? Or did you both end up working there somehow? Think about it - what good would come out of reporting it? Would *ANY* good other than clearing your conscious come of it? It was twenty years ago for pete's sake. Just keep it to yourself.

If I were him, I'd quit and find a new job elsewhere. If you're even considering dredging up 20 year old dirt on someone, then I wouldn't want to be around you when you're pissed off. Now you have something that you could hold over him. Of course, if others know about the relationship and you tattle about a 20 year old conviction, *you* might wind up looking like a total ass.
Just a few random thoughts on it. Personally, I'd just shove it under the carpet and not worry about it. For all you know, the conviction was expunged anyway and you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Was it expunged? Does he know? Have him write a letter to the court asking to have the record sealed or to have the record expunged. Then the conviction goes away and all is good.
posted by drstein at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2005


jimw: "it seems to me that discussing it with the boyfriend is a good idea. that seems to fit with the whole idea of building trust, and he certainly deserves to know what an awkward position he has put you in you've put yourself in at the risk of betraying his trust."
posted by OmieWise at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2005


Piling on to say "do nothing." She learned this information wearing her "girlfriend" hat, not wearing her "HR person" hat. If she were dating someone who worked at a different company, who told her the same thing, would she feel any obligation to report it? I would guess not.

Girl needs to learn to compartmentalize a little bit. But if she can't, or won't, then the least worst alternative is #3.
posted by ambrosia at 12:21 PM on December 12, 2005


She needs to break up with her boyfriend immediately. I would take a guy who committed a minor crime 20 years ago any day to a soulless corporate tool HR wench who would ruin a life just to make herself feel better.
posted by gatorae at 12:21 PM on December 12, 2005


Anyone that feels they are unethical, because an entity with no interest in their welfare asks them to divulge irrelevant details of a coworker's past, needs to seriously reflect on why they feel such fealty for an organization. The organization could request all kinds of things. It's none of their fucking business.
posted by docpops at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Oh, and in case it's not perfectly clear--if he committed this crime as a juvenile, and the records are sealed, she would be doing something extremely unethical by reporting it to her employers.
posted by frykitty at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


We may call her naive or stupid, but she's that as ethical and moral.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:17 PM PST on December 12


No. She's that authoritarian. Don't confuse that with anything even approaching morality. Is she prompting these responses or are you kind of guessing what she might say?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Mo Nickels-It's interesting to read that this is what you advised her.

Has she seen this thread? I think you should send her the url, not simply because I think that it will make her feel badly, but because I really do think she should maybe rethink the scales that put "not lying to my boss" at a potentially higher place than "the one."
posted by OmieWise at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2005


What if the boyfriend wasn't already working at her company, but was looking to hired there? Would she then be obligated to inform HR?
posted by horsewithnoname at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2005


BTW, she really needs to see this thread.
posted by speranza at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2005


If she's concerned with the ethics of the question, she should first ask what harm would be done, and to whom, as a result of her actions.

What harm does she cause the company by not telling them? The only result is that her boyfriend remains employed. The company already thinks he's a good employee or they wouldn't retain him. What's the harm done?

If she does rat out her boyfriend, both could lose their jobs, not to mention the damage caused to their relationship, whether she does it with or without his knowledge.

Not a difficult call in my book...
posted by Space Kitty at 12:26 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


She definately should tell the guy she's been considering reporting him and even reporting him without his knowledge. This may be harsh but he ought to know what a mean and small person she is.
posted by 6550 at 12:27 PM on December 12, 2005


if she was asked if she knew about his arrest and conviction, she would feel obligated to say "yes." We may call her naive or stupid, but she's that as ethical and moral. (sez Mo)
That is an interesting point. The scenario is, they get hitched, and then next year somebody else discovers hubby's crime and asks our friend, "Did you know, and why didn't you report it?" The possibility that could happen means she really needs to understand precisely why, ethically, morally and legally, she is NOT going to report it. There's plenty of good reasons in the thread, make sure she reads it, don't just explain it to her. Should that day arrive, and she's asked the question, she needs to give a very clear and irreproachable answer, which boils down to, "There are some things that are sacrosanct, and what I'm told in the confidentiality and privacy of a loving relationship is one of them. Now get out of my office."
posted by beagle at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2005


She's not prompting. We talked long about it so I'm fully informed on her opinions. Nothing is being said here, really, that I haven't already tried to tell her. She won't see this thread for a few more days, when the dust has settled and I forward the link to her. (I told her about "a place where you can ask a group of people any question" but didn't give the name.)

She's the kind of person for whom everything in life seems to have gone well and you hope, for her sake, that it continues to, because she will incapable of handling the least pothole or roadblock. I think she came to me with the dilemma only because she seeks drama in her life, but she denies that.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2005


The first question I would ask her would be "What would you want him to do if the situation were reversed?"

My second question would be "Do you love your potential husband more than you love your job?"

I've worked in HR before. The policies that bind people in that job suck ass. You basically are the equivalent of a police internal affairs officer. That can truly suck when questions such as these come up, or for that matter, if you want to have work friends. Or worse, have COOL work friends. Nigh on impossible.

Were I she; it would be simple. Don't ask, don't tell, or the aforementioned option 5.
posted by weirdoactor at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


They should both be looking for other jobs now! Who the hell wants to work for or be loyal to a company that's so blatently Stalinist?
posted by v-tach at 12:32 PM on December 12, 2005


It's just a job. No matter what your friend feels her responsibilities are, there are other jobs out there. Are there other relationships out there with the potential to be "The One?" Perhaps, but it's not as likely.

This guy has already been hired and your friend needs to just tell herself that all of the necessary questions have already been asked and that no one NEEDS to know at this point and just move on.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2005


So, she's a part of the company in the same way she and all of us are a part of society. She feels an overwhelming need to disclose information about him to the company, so certainly she must feel compelled to report him to the police everytime he 1) speeds 2) smokes pot 3) jaywalks 4) is late with his taxes 5) etc...

Has she done these things yet? Can she feel the hellfire yet?
posted by jon_kill at 12:38 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


If I was her I'd go with option 5a. Say nothing until he breaks up with her. That's perfect revenge material right there.
posted by sebas at 12:41 PM on December 12, 2005


Her problem is, she wants to feel perfectly moral, perfectly in love, and perfectly employed.

Wow, if that's really true, she's got much bigger problems than this particular conundrum. The world is an imperfect place, and we are all imperfect people who live imperfect lives. Jeez, if this relative no-brainer is freaking her out, what the fuck is she going to do when she's faced with an actual complex situation?

Anyone that feels they are unethical, because an entity with no interest in their welfare asks them to divulge irrelevant details of a coworker's past, needs to seriously reflect on why they feel such fealty for an organization.

Amen. Jesus, if the company instituted a "no smoking EVER policy, would she feel an obligation to rat out the smokers, too? And yeah, like jon_kill says, what if she found out a coworker filed their taxes late? Smokes pot? Is having an affair? Would she think she had some obligation to tattle on those people, too?

In the meantime, this reminds me of why I've hated just about every HR person I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.
posted by scody at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2005 [2 favorites]


This falls into the attorney-client, confessor-confessee, husband-wife, partner-partner confidentiality department, and that confidentiality tends to override any reporting obligation, ethically as well as legally.

This is one hundred percent incorrect. COnfidentiality applies in limited situations, between a very small number of relationships, and in the legal context only. None of those qualifiers are met here: they are dating and this concerns corporate decisions.
posted by Falconetti at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2005


In the meantime, this reminds me of why I've hated just about every HR person I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.

Word! Word. Fucking rats.

And to those who say she/he should get new jobs, do we know for a fact that company actually cares? She's clearly a tight-ass, but maybe the company isn't (Mo Nickels, help us out?).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:47 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Were I her superior, and were such a thing legal, she would find herself without a job after such a confession.
posted by jon_kill at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2005


When I took "interviewing training" it said we were only allowed to ask about convictions on a felony. It sounds like he did get convicted, but it was just a misdemeanor. Now that he's hired, is it even legal for the company to want to know about his misdemeanor charges from 20 years ago? Unless this company is Fascists, Inc., I don't even think it's relevant.

Maybe she or her boyfriend should talk to an employment lawyer.
posted by matildaben at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2005


To cover her bases, she should
A) Dump the boyfriend;
B) Rat him out;
C) Quit. (When her boss asks why, she should give a full accounting. Her boss will then say "you've got to be fucking kidding me.")

Extreme, yes, but it will leave her in an ethically unimpeachable position. Kind of lonely up there.
posted by adamrice at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


It's worth pointing out that this woman and her boyfriend have been dating for "a couple of years" and that this is still a dilemma for her.
posted by OmieWise at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2005


Option 1 (for the guy): NEVER date people in your own HR department.

The guy is completely screwed. He told her confidential information that she is compelled to divulge to save her own ass and will potentially get him fired. If it were me dating this girl, I would end the relationship immediately after getting the goods on her moral quandary. If that happens, there is no reason for her to not divulge said information, and he still stands to lose his job.

Poor guy.
posted by purephase at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2005


I'm trying to think of a devil's advocate argument (burglary, stealing from employer) but that was 20 years ago and the job's good so there's no incentive to steal from the company.

If you know/care for your friend's bf, I think that it would be fair to warn him that your friend thought that she had an "ethical/moral" dillemma on her hands and considered reporting him to the company.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2005


Mo: I think the reason people in this thread are astounded is because in her list of possible options, she didnt even list option 5. If she had, it might have created a sense that she has both a practical mind and a somewhat balanced world-view.

Without that option 5, its hard not to see her as incredibly narrow-minded and even callous.
posted by vacapinta at 12:54 PM on December 12, 2005


As another HR person, I have to chime in with, "No, don't tell. Why on earth would it matter to the company?"

And here is why.

Companies ask the question, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" for liability reasons. If a client gets ripped off by someone embezzling funds, the company has to protect itself by saying, "Well, we asked if they had been convicted of a felony, and they said no, but they lied because they embezzled funds from a previous employer. Yadda yadda." So, they care about felonies that can put them at legal risk. Misdemeanors? I don't know if it is part of federal law or state law, but I believe that a company cannot discriminate against a potential employee for a first conviction for any of the following misdemeanors:

-driving under the influence,
-simple assault,
-speeding,
-minor traffic violations,
-disturbance of the peace; or
-conviction for a misdemeanor where the date of the conviction or end of period of incarceration, if any, occurred more than five years prior to the employment application, and the applicant has not been convicted of any offense within the five years immediately before the date of application.

Did he lie about a felony? That may be a different matter altogether, especially if it is substantially related to the job. For example, the rules might be more strict for professionals working with minors or motor vehicles transporting passengers. If it is someone working with money or financial records, the rules may also be different. But I would have to defer to an employment lawyer for clarification on that.

In any case, if this information was critical to the employer as a condition of employment, they would have paid the nominal fee to have his background checked, which is ridiculously easy and inexpensive to do.

Sorry if you folks think that all HR professionals are tools. Yes, there are some very awful HR people out there. And awful accounting people and awful salespeople and programmers and web designers and so forth. No occupation is shielded from "tool-dom".

Not all HR professionals are tools. Some of us are quite reasonable, logical and fair. Some of us even (*gasp*) advocate for EMPLOYEES even though the company pays us. So settle down out there and don't always assume the worst.
posted by jeanmari at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


No!

Unless you think that you'd have to undergo a lie detector or something!
posted by k8t at 1:01 PM on December 12, 2005


I'm appalled at near-unanimous agreement here that "option #5" is the correct choice. In fact there is no ethical alternative but that one of these two people leave their job. The question here should be which one of them is going to resign. I would lean toward it being him, seeing that he should not have his job to begin with. That's the way to make the situation right, albeit somewhat belatedly.

And no, declining to lie to one's employer does not make one a soulless corporate wench. Jesus Christ. Your employer does not pay you money to do your job when you feel like it. Your obligation to your employer does not go away because you'd prefer to ignore it because you're in lurve.

It would perhaps be different if the only two alternatives were ratting him out or deceiving her employer. In this case, obviously, lying by omission is arguably the lesser of two evils. But why be so quick to write off the other perfectly serviceable options? I'm sure they'd both like to keep their cushy jobs, but in life you don't always get everything you want. They should be grown-ups and remove themselves from this untenable conflict-of-interest situation post haste.

Her words to him should be: "I love you, but please don't ever put me in that position again."
posted by kindall at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2005


You are crazy. Absolutely don't report him.
posted by xammerboy at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2005


Wow.

What a cunt. (No offense intended to those who've reclaimed "cunt" as an honorific.)

I really hope the boyfriend gets a copy of this thread, too. He needs to dump her authoritarian ass.
posted by Netzapper at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2005


I think your friend should also consider that shades of gray aren't limited to old movies. What would she have had her BF do when completing the job app, admit to a past arrest? I think we all know that would surely have disqualified him. As far as I can see, his only poorly judged move (other than the original crime) was in confiding in her.
posted by rob511 at 1:11 PM on December 12, 2005


"I love you, but please don't ever put me in that position again. When Steve from Marketing came over to my desk and asked if I was ready to give my all, I said yes, BUT IT WAS A LIE! I couldn't tell him that 'my all' involved the horrible, horrible truth about your scarred, awful past, your misdemeanor offense that had you exiled from society for... A COUPLE OF DAYS!!!... and placed in the ranks of the forever unemployable! He knew! His sneer wasn't misplaced office lust! HE KNEW! I choked back a tear as I inserted my copier key that day, the words, 'I'm not worthy', burbling in my mind."

Is that how the rest of it goes, Kindall?
posted by jon_kill at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Somebody please, please please tell the boyfriend. He needs to know.

It's too bad that the guy is going to get so badly screwed here. When he learns about her dilemma, he's going to dump her like a hot potato, as he should. And then she's going to be free of any dilemma, she's going to drop a dime on him to the employer, and he's going to lose his job. A harsh lesson for him to learn, just for being foolish enough to get involved with a nut.

Hopefully he'll tell his coworkers what happened on his way out, so she'll get the respect she deserves from them in the future.

"tool
3: a person who is controlled by others and is used to perform unpleasant or dishonest tasks for someone else"
posted by jellicle at 1:15 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I think you're all overlooking that the quesiton itself so strongly implies option #5 with phrases like "true with absolute certainty. He is totally and inarguably a good person," which clearly describe an imaginary saint rather than a real person. Actually stating option #5 would make it completely obvious that she's only asking to feel better about what she's already decided to do.
posted by scottreynen at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


kindall writes "And no, declining to lie to one's employer does not make one a soulless corporate wench. Jesus Christ. Your employer does not pay you money to do your job when you feel like it. Your obligation to your employer does not go away because you'd prefer to ignore it because you're in lurve."

No, but your obligation may be obviated by requirements that transcend the boundaries of necessary knowledge. The way I read the post the crime in question has absolutely no bearing on the job that this guy does. If there were some bearing I feel confident that we would have heard about it given how concerned this woman is. Corporations can ask for a lot of things, and they may be able to get them given that there are fewer employers than there are employees, but we shouldn't interiorize that power to the extent that we grant our employers access to information for which they have no need and to which they have no right. Jesus Christ.
posted by OmieWise at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


In fact there is no ethical alternative but that one of these two people leave their job.

You subscribe to a different set of ethics than I do, kindall. I'm no brazen scofflaw, but in many cases &mash; particularly this one — it seems important that humanity of the situation triump over soulless corporate culture. In my world, there are many ethical choices, one of which is the aforementioned #5.

#5, Mo's friend, #5!

(And no crying that this woman is a "cunt" for asking the question. Good grief. She's trying to do the right thing, and is in a hard spot. There's no cause for the boyfriend to dump her. You guys are whacked.)
posted by jdroth at 1:18 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Mo - if you wait a few days for the dust to settle before she sees this thread then what is the point of asking all of us? I can imagine that in a few days, she would have already made up her mind, and since I agree with everyone who has said option 5, I'd recommend going ahead and showing her right away.
posted by echo0720 at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2005


No.

And I hope he dumps your sorry ass for having mixed feelings about this.
posted by bshort at 1:35 PM on December 12, 2005


There's no cause for the boyfriend to dump her. You guys are whacked.

If my SO had this problem before them and they chose their so-called obligation to the company to possibly divulge personal information about me that was given in a personal context then I would end the relationship immediately.

I'd never date someone with that set of priorities.
posted by purephase at 1:37 PM on December 12, 2005


No. I'd go further and say that the fact that she is asking question is absolute proof that he isn't "the one" for her. They need to end this "relationship" for both their sakes.
posted by chill at 1:37 PM on December 12, 2005


I think the boyfriend is totally unfair for telling her in the first place. He should not put her in this position.

As I see it his problem is lying on the application. If he lied there where else will he lie? He needs to tell on himself, and/or get another job. It is up to the company to decide what to do with him.

Should she tell? Not necessarily-but if her ethics are that strong she won't ultimately be happy with someone whose ethics are not on her level. He ain't the one-unless he tells on himself.
posted by konolia at 1:37 PM on December 12, 2005


Nothing. Why does she feel a higher degree of loyality to her company than to her boyfriend?

You should mark AwwardPause's post as best answer.
posted by Neiltupper at 1:39 PM on December 12, 2005


No, you don't report him.
Even if you found this out in course of employment rather than as a girlfriend, part of your responsibility as an HR person is to recognize the value of the resource.
I might prefer a person who has already tested the limits, and dealt with, and learned from the consequences, over some zombie who has toed the line to the T, and now is waiting to embezzle millions, or machine gun the place, because he has never learned a small lesson.
posted by tcy at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I just want to say that I like my HR person.
posted by grouse at 1:45 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Christ, wait until she has kids.
posted by docpops at 1:46 PM on December 12, 2005


konolia writes "As I see it his problem is lying on the application. If he lied there where else will he lie?"

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. It makes a slippery slope argument about the BF's fitness as a person out of a very context dependent choice. Would you be worried about what other laws might be broken by someone driving 29 in a 25 mph zone? Why not? Would you be upset because they put you in the position of having to lie by omission to the police or rat them out?

I know I keep commenting in this thread, but it's because I cannot imagine what must be going through this woman's head. If she described this BF as a casual physical relationship my reaction would be different, but to call someone "the one" and then have this kind of a question about loyalties just seems incredibly limited to me. I agree with jdroth that calling her names is not particularly helpful, but I also think that if I were the guy I would leave the relationship quickly if I found out how little she valued it (or in what context she valued it).
posted by OmieWise at 1:46 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


No, but your obligation may be obviated by requirements that transcend the boundaries of necessary knowledge. The way I read the post the crime in question has absolutely no bearing on the job that this guy does.

Which is why you are obligated to tell your employer, so they (the ones affected) can determine whether it has any bearing. The HR employee does not have the authority to make this decision.
posted by kindall at 1:47 PM on December 12, 2005


She's trying to do the right thing, and is in a hard spot. There's no cause for the boyfriend to dump her.

Not even when one of her options is to inform on him to the company without even telling him about it?

That's as big a betrayal of their relationship as it would be for her to sleep with Dave from Marketing. And it's very, very sad that it's even on the list.
posted by reynir at 1:47 PM on December 12, 2005


I think the boyfriend is totally unfair for telling her in the first place. He should not put her in this position.

As I see it his problem is lying on the application. If he lied there where else will he lie?
posted by konolia at 1:37 PM PST on December 12


So, you think he should have not told her, thereby making a lie by omission. But you then say he shouldn't have lied on the application. So you think it's better to lie to a person than a corporation?

If he lied there where else will he lie?

Glass houses, big K.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:47 PM on December 12, 2005


No, and if questioned, deny, deny, deny.
posted by Quartermass at 1:48 PM on December 12, 2005


I think the boyfriend is totally unfair for telling her in the first place. He should not put her in this position.

Really? So, he should censor all of his conversations in case he divulges something that could potentially be used against him at work? Hell, how about they just cut out the conversation part of their relationship entirely! Nothing to worry about then.
posted by purephase at 1:48 PM on December 12, 2005


do they work for the CIA or something?

Even for security clearances, I think the background checks usually cover only the previous ten years.
posted by normy at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2005


Also, I'll happily buy the young lady a membership so she can rebut in person, as it were.
posted by docpops at 1:50 PM on December 12, 2005


The only reason she should actually report this is if it has any bearing on his job right now. If he got arrested for graffiti or jaywalking, who gives a rat's ass? No one. And anyone who does really has their priorities out of order. Yes, the company asks about felonies because they have to for CYA purposes, and any job I've ever had has included a background check that would *at least* uncover that I'd been arrested. Jesus Christ, people, how many of us have done stupid things we'd rather not advirtise to the world? Life goes on.

That said, if the company is in no danger from this (probable) misdemenor, but she still can't deal, she needs to quit. She's the one with the issues, not him. He's apparently doing ok, or else she might not feel ok dating him, since a spotless, morally and ethically superior HR wonk wouldn't want to be associated with some n'er-do-well copyboy, right?
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:53 PM on December 12, 2005


kindall writes "Which is why you are obligated to tell your employer, so they (the ones affected) can determine whether it has any bearing. The HR employee does not have the authority to make this decision."

The corporation may not want to give her the authority, but good sense gives her the ability.
posted by OmieWise at 1:53 PM on December 12, 2005


I am fairly certain that here in the humane UK, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes a non-violent crime non-declarable after a period of time (Forget how long, but much less than 20 years). The law makes it so that you never even committed the crime.

So law, ethics and moralty vary across locations, as much as time.

She should decide to keep quiet, having seen all the arguments, and declare to him what a dillemma she had had, but that justice, love and common sense won out over corporate obligations. It is possible that he will admire her all the more for her intellectual struggle.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:55 PM on December 12, 2005


No. No. Nein. Non. Iie.
posted by matkline at 2:04 PM on December 12, 2005


is she crazy? of course she shouldn't report it. she should never mention it again to anyone. she shouldn't bring it up to him ever again, either. he did her an intimate favor. she should be thankful. quietly. sheesh. if i were him, i'd be worried she would even be thinking about it. if the hr dept didn't check it out to begin with, she shouldn't be worried now, either. or they might have done as many hr depts do: check it out, decide it's not that bad, and keep quiet about it. she would just be bringing that to light, which would likely hurt other people as well. this is seriously misplaced priorities. someone needs to see a therapist before they trap some trusting dupe into continuing this relationship. lordy. it's gonna suck to be him.

in soviet russia, girlfriend report you.

here's what she should do if she can't get it figured out: quit her job. she's obviously taking it waaaaay too seriously.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2005


Geez. Don't report it. Duh.

Now my question, regarding a comment from above:

For all you know, the conviction was expunged anyway and you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Was it expunged? Does he know? Have him write a letter to the court asking to have the record sealed or to have the record expunged. Then the conviction goes away and all is good.

How does one know if this can be done in their state? Are there laws in all states that allow such records to be sealed/expunged per your request, or...? [[confused]]
posted by limeonaire at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2005


Finding true love is hard enough.
posted by omidius at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2005


limenoaire:

I'm the guy that wrote that. I think it's something to look into. A friend of mine had a felony many years ago and it was only recently in his best interest to deal with it. He petitioned the court that he was originally sentenced in and the judge agreed and dropped it down to a misdemeanor. Since it was 20 years ago and was a non-drug/non-violent offense, it might not be too difficult.

My suggestion to this guy: (if he ever sees this) Contact the state bar association and ask them about it. It might be a simple process, it might be a total pain in the ass. Who knows. For my friend, it turned out to be a fairly simple process, but he did need to retain legal councel for it.

And I have to admit that I'm curious as to what the 20 year old conviction was even for.
posted by drstein at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2005


Well, the way she sees it is that her job *is* on the line. Because if she was asked if she knew about his arrest and conviction, she would feel obligated to say "yes." We may call her naive or stupid, but she's that as ethical and moral.

In that case, she should continue to be ethical and moral by addressing the situation clearly and saying: "yes, but given the event's distance in the past and a cleaned slate, I couldn't see any reason the company should know or care." Anybody with an ounce of reasonable judgment will agree with her, as most of this thread attests. And if the company at that point disagrees with her, then they have some serious moral problems and it's time to leave anyway before she's corrupted by association.

and has been a straight arrow ever since. This was 20 years ago. I know all his details to be true with absolute certainty. He is totally and inarguably a good person and a good citizen and hasn't so much as stolen a grape in a grocery store—except, he lied on his application for his current job because he didn't think it mattered any more.

20 years. Perfect behavior since then. He's right, it shouldn't matter anymore. God himself wouldn't care, and no HR department should be allowed to.
posted by weston at 2:29 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Mo, try your best to dissuade this moron from joining metafilter (just in case this heaping no-pile doesn't do it for her).


Oh, right -- NO.
posted by jmgorman at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2005


Heh. What are those things that hold up electricity cables?

Andrew Cooke nailed it, about halfway up the thread. Ethics and morals aren't something written down in a company handbook; they are a complex series of personal values which guide our interactions with society. To me - and many others in this thread - the "right" thing to do is to forget he ever told you.
posted by blag at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2005


Optimus Chyme writes 'Glass houses, big K.'
Heh.

posted by blag at 2:32 PM on December 12, 2005


Message to boyfriend: The fact that she had to ask is a good sign to end the relationship now.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:43 PM on December 12, 2005


To re-iterate the general tenor of this thread NO NO NO.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:44 PM on December 12, 2005


Fuck no. And is she picking and choosing to which company rules she is morally bound? I have never worked for a firm or company that didn't have a (largely ignored, by myself included) prohibition in the employee handbook against coworkers dating.
posted by amro at 2:48 PM on December 12, 2005


Can I get the job as Metafilter HR? I swear I wont tell Matt anything you whisper in my ear.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:56 PM on December 12, 2005


Speaking as a boss, I'd be pissed off if somebody told me about a minor crime that happened 20 years ago. I don't want to be in a position where I have to terminate an employee on the basis of an ancient mistake.

She should tell the man that she's not certain what to do, but only so he can honestly re-evaluate their relationship.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:23 PM on December 12, 2005


Obviously I'm going to add my voice to the "no" camp. I cannot conceive of how this girl thinks her job requires this kind of crossover from personal to professional. I doubt even her bosses would agree with her that she's got some kind of professional obligation to inform on her boyfriend's pillow talk. If they would, she should know to tell them where to go. That she doesn't scares me. It really is like something out of Stalinist Russia, or Pol Pot's Cambodia, where children denounced parents, they were so brainwashed.

I think this girl is deeply selfish. The only reason to report this is to assuage her holier-than-thou moral sense. She needs to feel superior to other people, and by seriously contemplating act of shocking personal betrayal for a technical professional responsibility, she achieves that. The consummation of this superiority would be the betrayal itself - that would set her above all others. That she would think of doing this to someone she claims to love - to want to marry! - is horrendous. She needs to understand that there is no such thing as a moral absolute. In this case, whatever (non-existent) moral obligation she has to her job is far outweighed by the moral obligation of respecting and honouring the trust placed in her by her boyfriend. If she can't honour that, she needs to break up with him. I mean, I'm not sure she should be in any relationship at all if this is an issue for her, if she can't see where her greater obligation lies - to someone who loves her or to a company that employs her.

And the idea that he shouldn't have told her because it puts her in an awkward spot is equally bogus - this wouln't put any human being with a remotely normal ethical sense in any kind of a spot. Most people would feel great about being trusted like this, about the deepening of the relationship. She is sadly unworthy of that trust. How depressing.
posted by Dasein at 3:26 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


If the boyfriend already is "serious" with this woman, he probably has a good idea what she's like. That being said, if he knows she is the "ethical" sort who sees only black and white even in extreme cases like this, I don't understand why he told her.

Clearly, this woman values her own sense of ethics and professional pride more than she does her relationship with this man or she wouldn't be asking this question and debating it with you. Perhaps this is just a means of escape for her to get away from a relationship that's too "serious" for her.

To summarize: It was wrong of the boyfriend to tell, as it puts her in a serious bind. But it's ten times worse if the girlfriend does anything with this information besides sit on it. If she tells she should break up with him, because she doesn't deserve to be with a quality man if this is where her priorities lie.
posted by Happydaz at 3:27 PM on December 12, 2005


After the first twenty-five posts I wondered if there was anyone, anyone at all, who would give a different answer. kindall, I salute you.
posted by Aknaton at 3:34 PM on December 12, 2005


They should be grown-ups and remove themselves from this untenable conflict-of-interest situation post haste.

I don't think you know what that word means. Either that, or you have an exceptionally dry wit.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:39 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Let me dissent from, or at least vary, the pileon slightly.

Clearly she shouldn't report him. To do so would be utter betrayal. And I agree that she shoudn't feel an obligation to report him simply because her employer would like her to. With that said, she may feel a genuine moral obligation to her employer, or an obligation of honor, that goes beyond mindless obedience to the corporate hive-mind.

Perhaps she was involved in formulating the rules the boyfriend has violated, or has enforced them against others, and feels it would be hypocritical of her not to do so when her own ox is the one being gored. Or perhaps she simply feels that she made a commitment to carry out certain responsibilities, this being among them, and that it would be dishonorable to ignore them this time simply because it would be convenient to do so. I could understand that.

If that's the case, the only way out of the conflict without harming someone else is for her to quit.
posted by bac at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2005


This is a classic narcissistic trait, manufacturing a moral quandary for the purpose of appearing sublimely analytical,ethical, etc. The best response is "Blow it out your ass" and "get a fucking life".

Unless she was raised on an Amish farm like a veal, in which case, a gentle, "There, there child, that'll do for now".
posted by docpops at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Mo Nickels: Is this a fake question?
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2005


There is no ethical quandary here, no matter how straight-edge fundamentalist "never ever lie for any reason" you want to be about it. No one is asking her whether her boyfriend committed a crime—she doesn't have to lie. What she is considering is volunteering the information with no prompting. That's going way above and beyond the call of duty.
Did she actually sign a contract saying that she has to immediately report any non-sanctioned activity that another employee takes part in (outside of work, twenty years ago?) If somebody, for some crazy reason, specifically asks her, "Say, did your boyfriend ever go to jail?" all she would have to do is say "that's his business; go ask him."
posted by designbot at 3:51 PM on December 12, 2005


The ethical thing to do is not to tell. Employer's understand that you have a personal and private life and that things that happen at home stay there. Assuming that the bf didn't tell her this stuff in her office, she has a higher moral calling to keep it secret. *He told her in confidence*. Ethically you need to keep an ordered of precedence, and real people should always come above corporations.

Also, you need to tell people before hand if you can't keep personal conversation's private, not afterwards and certainly not after telling the boss. You also should not tell the boss if your bf mentions at home that he saw empolyee X leaving work early, same reasons. You need to be clear when people are talking to you the person and when they're talking to you the employee. Again, if he calls you in your office to tell you, then he's reporting it, otherwise it stays a private conversation.

I am obligated by my job to report him

Here's where you first run into trouble, as you are most certainly not. I've worked for law enforcement, and one of the first things we were told is that you're only an officer while on duty. The same thing goes for any job. Any citizen can feel free to report their neighbours broken tail lights or pot smoking, but if you do you should do it full well knowing you made a choice to do it and are a jerk.

It's not a lie to let someone continue to believe his original applicaiton was valid, unless they ask you outright, and if they do the ethical thing to do would be to say you have a conflict of interest and refuse to answer (unless, as pointed out, the criminal background is in fact relevant to job performance as in the child care senario).
posted by tiamat at 4:03 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


#6 Ask the boyfriend if he is willing to go to HR, independently, and tell them he lied on the application. (If asked why he is reporting it "now", he should obviously NOT mention the HR person, just something like "I just decided I want to do the right thing.")

And drstein has a point: in many states, there are ways to get old convictions reduced, sealed, or expunged.

I do wonder about the how old the boyfriend was at the time of the crime - employers usually cannot ask about juvenile criminal records. [conceptually, a juvenile crime is very different than an adult crime because of presumed lack of ability to fully distinguish between right and wrong; juvenile detention time is considered a rehabilitative measure, not a punative one.]
posted by WestCoaster at 4:09 PM on December 12, 2005


No!
posted by luckypozzo at 4:12 PM on December 12, 2005


A response to kindall:

I'm appalled at near-unanimous agreement here that "option #5" is the correct choice. In fact there is no ethical alternative but that one of these two people leave their job. The question here should be which one of them is going to resign. I would lean toward it being him, seeing that he should not have his job to begin with. That's the way to make the situation right, albeit somewhat belatedly.

1. He does have an ethical responsiblity to resign, you're half right. However, that in no way reflects on her if she learned this information outside the work place.

And no, declining to lie to one's employer does not make one a soulless corporate wench. Jesus Christ. Your employer does not pay you money to do your job when you feel like it. Your obligation to your employer does not go away because you'd prefer to ignore it because you're in lurve.

2. First of all, they do pay you to do a job when you feel like it. Usually they expect you'll feel like it M-F 9-5 (for example) but you can always quit when you stop feeling like it. That's why it's called employee, not slave. There is no ethical responsbility to relate to the employer anything that happens off company time, short of thing that make you or some-one else unfit/unsafe to perform a job. Hence the distinction between reporting an alcholic friend (not cool) vs. reporting one who comes to work drunk.

It would perhaps be different if the only two alternatives were ratting him out or deceiving her employer. In this case, obviously, lying by omission is arguably the lesser of two evils. But why be so quick to write off the other perfectly serviceable options? I'm sure they'd both like to keep their cushy jobs, but in life you don't always get everything you want. They should be grown-ups and remove themselves from this untenable conflict-of-interest situation post haste.

3. Telling will destroy one of: his career, her career, or their relationship, and thus does damage.* Not telling (as we understand) does no damage. Thus telling is the unethnical path as it does harm over a choice that does no harm. Remember, it's HIM that should own up to this, not her (see 1).

3b. We've been given no reason to believe this situtation is anything like untenable (upcoming records checks on all employees, for example). Annoying, yes, but there is any a course of no harm, which is to not tell.

Her words to him should be: "I love you, but please don't ever put me in that position again."

4. Yes. She obviously has trouble making a division between work and private life, and assuming she can't overcome it should make this very clear to everyone who talks to her who might also interact with her in a work enviroment. She should tell this to people before going out to the bar after work, and especially to people who might expect privacy in a conversation (so called pillow talk).
posted by tiamat at 4:16 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Hell no - I call this thread to be a fake, i can't even phantom someone talking about having found 'the one' and then report his ass. WTF?
posted by Sijeka at 4:18 PM on December 12, 2005


sidepoint, although common usage might let you get away with it, I think it's important to note this is NOT a "dilemma".

a) a dilemma should only have two possible answers

b) A forced choice between courses of action (usually two) which are equally unacceptable. Sometimes people will call any challenging "moral problem" a dilemma, but this is a misleading use of the term. Only a few moral problems are dilemmas in the true meaning of the term. Calling moral problems "dilemmas" is confusing because it implies that the only possible responses are the two obvious (and unacceptable) ones, and tends to discourage real problem solving. (cite: http://www.unmc.edu/ethics/words.html#D)
posted by tiamat at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


He does have an ethical responsiblity to resign, you're half right.
If anything, he has an ethical responsibility to admit that he lied on his form. It's up to the company to decide whether or not they care enough about that to dismiss him.
posted by designbot at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2005


All I can say is that only in the U.S. would this question even be asked. Deny as you will, but the sheep mentality of this question has "American corporated life" written all over it.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:34 PM on December 12, 2005


Pertinent answer - NO NO NO. If her relationship with The One is at even the same level as her relationship with her work... gahhh the mind reels.

Side comment - to the comments that state he should not even have told her: I would want "my One" to be forthcoming about their entire past, misdemeanors and all. I assume he disclosed this information to develop their closeness, never in his wildest imagination thinking she would even *consider* using it against him (to make her feel better about *herself* no less). For shame.
posted by like_neon at 4:39 PM on December 12, 2005


Non-violent, non-drug crime for a young male in bad company? He tried to pick up a prostitute and got an undercover cop instead? This would explain the few days in jail (a major theft would get a bunch more) and also why said HR female is reacting the way she does. How can one resolve The One with The John in their mind without getting some negative thoughts? Some studdering in her devotion, some need to strike back, would be expected.

Anyways, no no no. If this were a true Kool-Aid sipping HR drone, then she wouldn't have been dating someone from the company in the first place. Something else is afoot here.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:43 PM on December 12, 2005


...has "American corporated life" written all over it.

Maybe. But I bet many of the 'NNNOOO!' responses here are from equally American, corporate employees.
posted by AwkwardPause at 4:46 PM on December 12, 2005


tiamat: I'll see your UNMC Medical Ethics website (which does not even support your point a) and raise you a Merriam-Webster.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:49 PM on December 12, 2005


I have to go with Kindall on this one. As konolia noted, the pertinent transgression here didn't occur 20 years ago -- it occurred when he lied on the application. She should tell the BF that she has to report him, but give him the chance to come clean beforehand. If he can't deal with the consequences of his actions (the lie), he shouldn't be asking her to compromise her integrity.

I don't understand why so many people here are picking on just her. What about the boyfriend? Answer this: if you put your loved ones in a position that caused so much pain, would you turn yourself in or would you let them suffer?
posted by forrest at 4:50 PM on December 12, 2005


Answer this: if you put your loved ones in a position that caused so much pain, would you turn yourself in or would you let them suffer?

What planet are you living on? Pain? Suffering? She's deciding whether or not to narc on her boyfriend to score brownie points with her boss, not going through chemotherapy.

The "pertinent transgression" is a minor one, and it's the boyfriend's to worry about, not hers. Legally, it shouldn't make any difference anyway. Employers are prohibited from discriminating because of a criminal record, unless the offense is directly job related or indicates that you may be a threat.
posted by designbot at 5:05 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Answer this: if you put your loved ones in a position that caused so much pain, would you turn yourself in or would you let them suffer?

For god's sake, he told her about this -- in her words! -- "as part of building our total trust in each other." In the service of deepening the relationship, he revealed a truth about his life in order for the two of them to get to know each other and become closer. And she wants to turn that trust and vulnerability against him -- all because she feels some kneejerk obligation to the letter-of-the-law at her place of employment.

As far as him "causing her so much pain" -- he didn't know the HR girlfriend 20 years ago (20 years!!) when he commited what is clearly a minor offense with no relevance to his current job; nor did he know the HR girlfriend when he omitted the fact on his application for employment. His only offense was trusting her with this information.

And as for her terrible pain and suffering: feh. Clearly, part of the near-unanimous response here is that most of us don't buy this as a legitimately painful, gut-wrenching decision. To most of us, it reads as a tempest in a teapot created by someone who -- to quote Mo Nickels -- wants "to feel perfectly moral, perfectly in love, and perfectly employed" in an imperfect world. That problem is entirely hers.
posted by scody at 5:07 PM on December 12, 2005 [2 favorites]


3. Telling will destroy one of: his career, her career, or their relationship, and thus does damage.* Not telling (as we understand) does no damage.

Except, you know, to your character.

3b. We've been given no reason to believe this situtation is anything like untenable (upcoming records checks on all employees, for example).

By "untenable" I meant that the the situation could not continue. Not that he's going to be caught, but that the issue will gnaw at both of them until it must be resolved if sanity is to be regained.

Yes. She obviously has trouble making a division between work and private life, and assuming she can't overcome it should make this very clear to everyone who talks to her who might also interact with her in a work enviroment.

Actually, the position I was referring to was having to choose between love and integrity. Your response is a non sequitur.
posted by kindall at 5:12 PM on December 12, 2005


Except, you know, to your character.

Reason #652, by the way, that making moral decisions based on who will find out or who might be hurt is a shitty way to run a life.
posted by kindall at 5:13 PM on December 12, 2005


konolia's right. He lied on his application. What if he'd lied about the college he graduated from? It doesn't matter, right? If he can do his job, why is it important what the name on his degree is? But when this kind of thing happens, it's considered a major scandal, and I think most of you understand why it's a serious problem.

If I were her, I don't think I would turn him in, but the consensus here that she's a narcissistic Stalinist cunt is just unbelievable.
posted by transona5 at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2005


Not telling (as we understand) does no damage.

Except, you know, to your character.

kindall, doesn't this beg the question? Most people here are arguing that she is under no obligation to voluntarily inform her employer about someone else's personal information, learned outside of work, given in confidence in the context of a private relationship.

What are your grounds for arguing otherwise? Why does her theoretical, extra-legal, extra-contractual obligation to her employer outweigh her stated obligation to keep the trust of her boyfriend?
posted by designbot at 5:24 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


but the consensus here that she's a narcissistic Stalinist cunt is just unbelievable

Hate to interrupt all the fun you're having painting everyone with that overlarge brush in your hand, but there's no such consensus. The consensus is certainly that she should keep her mouth shut, but plenty of us in this thread have managed to disagree with the idea that she's got to tattle on her boyfriend without resorting to misogyny and hyperbole.

Also, I somehow doubt there were many HR departments under Stalin.
posted by scody at 5:35 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I agree with tiamat.
posted by terrapin at 6:28 PM on December 12, 2005


Do you have proof he lied? No.

Check this out:

The person in the cubicle next to you committed a felony 20 years ago. She lied about it. I, ikkyu2, say so!

Do you have to report her? No, because obviously I have no idea who the hell is sitting next to you and I'm totally making up this cock-a-mamie story.

Without proof, your boyfriend just told you the same cock-a-mamie story.

Tell him you don't believe it and you never want to hear about it again. Make it clear to him that were he to prove it to you, you'd be honor-bound to report it, and that's why you're telling him this.

And then, for God's sake, forget about it and go on with your life.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:51 PM on December 12, 2005


Wow. After reading some of the broad brush comments on this thread:

Human resources people make me sick. Why would any company be worth more to you than your actual life?

And what is with HR people? Man. What a bunch of stooges.

how the hell does someone gets so brain-washed by the "company" to even consider committing such a cruel, evil act.

Note to self: never date anyone in HR.

she's a soulless [sic] corporate wench who'll rat him out if he so much as steals a paperclip.

to a soulless [sic] corporate tool HR wench who would ruin a life just to make herself feel better.

this reminds me of why I've hated just about every HR person I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.

Word! Word. Fucking rats.


...I would have to tell you to get lives. HR is a job, like any job. There are good HR folks and bad ones. Sadly, many of the good ones burn out early because they get tired of dealing with the dregs of corporate life, whiners and complainers from all levels of the organization.

(By the way? Next time I'm fighting for one of my employees, to get them fair benefit coverage or defend them from getting their souls sucked dry by a horrendous manager, I'll remember your kind words of support. Maybe when I'm defending the right of a new mom to take her maternity leave or trying to protect an employee from a stalker-ish co-worker, I'll think of you.)


Now, let's put aside the general HR bashing for now, shall we? And concentrate on the specifics of this issue.

When should she tell:

-If this was a felony (which it doesn't sound like it was or else he wouldn't have gotten off with community service), AND...
-the felony could be substantially related to his job. (If it was THAT important, I would have a hard time believing the company wouldn't pay for a background check. This information is ridiculously easy and inexpensive to uncover.) In any case, it would have to be a pretty serious felony for a company to even care after 10 years, forget about 20.


When should she not feel obligated to tell:
-Any other scenario.

In any case, we do not know the details of this situation. Companies don't expect their HR departments to be "tattlers" (the decent ones don't). They expect us to help shape policy and advise on the enforcement of labor laws, as well as to lessen liability. Yes, she is obviously untrained and unseasoned as an HR rep. More than a little idealistic and she's not really using her head. But I'm hesitating to pass judgment on her character because I do not know the whole story. And hey! Guess what? Neither do you.

If this guy was convicted of identity theft and now has a job with a major credit checking company with access to unlimited personal data on customers, I'm sorry if you disagree, but I'd really have to think that one through. Love does not conquer all responsibility to others, folks. (And I'm not talking about responsibility to the company. I'm talking about responsibility to customers, people like you and me.) If he was convicted for soliciting a prostitute or carrying pot, I could care less. If this person was going to be handling highly sensitive information, the company would (most likely for liability reasons) have paid for a background check anyway and found out. So, it's probably not that scenario.

In any case, I don't believe this is an ethical or moral dilemma. Just from the little bit of information that we DO know (community service and probation sounds like a misdeameanor plus 20 years later with a clean record), we can refer to some basic guidelines in employment law and guess that the company isn't going to care about this issue. We would need to know more to think otherwise.

Other than that, if she reads this and I've guessed correctly in the above paragraph, AND she still insists on "telling", then she deserves any kind of verbal walloping that you desire to conduct and she shouldn't be working in HR.

Just don't hold her up as the poster child for HR. And don't bash all HR people. With employment rules and questions along these lines, we're trying to keep child molesters from becoming teacher's aides or school bus drivers. We're trying to keep DUI pilots out of the cockpits of commercial airliners. We're trying to keep those who steal out of your grandma's pension funds. We don't care what kind of weed you're smoking (as long as you do it on your own time), when you turn your taxes in (if at all) or what you dress up as to get your kicks. We don't even care when you take a sick day as a "mental health" day, as long as you don't make it a habit of blowing off work for no reason and letting someone else deal with your job all of the time. Tattle tales and brown nosers annoy us just as much as they annoy you. Honestly? Probably more so because we have to deal with those people ALL OF THE TIME. Seriously. File it all under "stuff that would make me yawn", thank you very much.
posted by jeanmari at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I know all his details to be true with absolute certainty.

Perhaps because she did a background check? If so, this throws a different light on the issue, and could explain why option #5 isn't in the mix. With her HR resources, performing a background check would be easy, and would probably leave a verifiable trail. Which means if he's found out by someone else performing a post-employment background check, then she could be found out. Both fired.

If true, that's a pickle of situation.
posted by F Mackenzie at 7:05 PM on December 12, 2005


Employee gives work for money. Employer gives money for work. That's the relationship. Beyond that, neither owes the other anything, including sharing secrets. It's difficult to see where ethics or morality even come into this.
posted by SPrintF at 7:30 PM on December 12, 2005


Employee gives work for money. Employer gives money for work. That's the relationship. Beyond that, neither owes the other anything...
Sadly, far too many employers consider that paycheck to be payment for far more than just the time you spend in the office. Many honestly do think they own first rights to you and can demand of you whatever the company feels it needs.

The even sadder part is that so many employees believe they are company property.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:16 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


What do you think the company's paying you for? Of course you have to tell them! Hiring someone is an act of enormous trust and expense on the part of the company. Relationships rarely work out (as evidenced by the fact that almost all of us have had many relationships). Your company, on the other hand, generously pays you for your time. You owe them, literally. Of course, I don't think it's right to go sneaking around behind anyone's back: you should give your boyfriend the courtesy of knowing what's coming. Option 1 is the only choice that's fair to everyone.
posted by jewzilla at 8:33 PM on December 12, 2005


Suffering? She's deciding whether or not to narc on her boyfriend to score brownie points with her boss

Yes, truly this woman has suffered beyond all others; I'm going to call those Rwandan orphans

And as for her terrible pain and suffering: feh

Since all three of you missed the point, let me try it again (read it carefully this time): If you put your loved ones in a position that caused them pain, would you let them suffer or would you turn yourself in? (Note that the question doesn't say Mo's friend is in pain, that The Man is out to get the boyfriend, or that what the BF did was bad or not. It has nothing to do with them -- it asks you what you would do in a hypothetical situation. Are your answers the same?)
posted by forrest at 8:56 PM on December 12, 2005


Your company, on the other hand, generously pays you for your time. You owe them, literally.

In reality people are paid what the market will bear, which is usually the company paying as little as the employees are willing to stand. Is that really generous? Damn, maybe I should be the one paying a Christmas holiday bonus to my boss.

jeanmari, I doubt anyone here really hates all HR people, but this woman helps give the bulk of you that are great people a terrible reputation.
posted by gatorae at 9:12 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Relationships rarely work out (as evidenced by the fact that almost all of us have had many relationships). Your company, on the other hand, generously pays you for your time. You owe them, literally.

I hope you and your company have a very happy life together.

It has nothing to do with them -- it asks you what you would do in a hypothetical situation.

Why are you posing hypotheticals?
posted by amro at 9:25 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


If she tells, she might feel better about herself ethically, but she won't have a single friend in that company. No one will want to even eat lunch with her. I wouldn't try to get to know a coworker socially if I knew she did something like that.

As far as the guy resigning, no way. You think he has an obligation to the company? I think he has an obligation to feed & clothe himself. Too many companies won't hire for the smallest reason. If I felt a criminal conviction threatened my ability to take care of myself, I'd lie on the application too. And I wouldn't feel morally corrupt for doing it.

The best route to take would be for the BF to do a background check on himself. See what comes up. If the arrest is no longer on the record, there's no problem. I'd do that as the first step before going any further.

I'd also never tell. But ethical quandries don't really bother me that much, I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that life can be chaotic and messy sometimes.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:29 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


What are your grounds for arguing otherwise? Why does her theoretical, extra-legal, extra-contractual obligation to her employer outweigh her stated obligation to keep the trust of her boyfriend?

My point is and will ever be that she doesn't have to make that decision. She can keep the trust of her boyfriend and not abuse the trust her employer has placed in her. All she has to do is quit her job, and then she doesn't let either her employer or her boyfriend down! Or, since he's the one who put her into this situation, he could solve the problem for her by leaving the company himself. There are ethical subtleties to the decision of who actually quits, of course, but either choice is far better than him asking his girlfriend to lie by omission for him every workday. That is a terrible burden to place on someone you claim to love.

Sure, both of them have "good jobs" they'd like to keep. But isn't the relationship more important than a job? Isn't that what so many people are saying here? Then give up the job for the relationship. Don't try to selfishly keep both when doing so will perpetually put the job and the relationship in conflict.
posted by kindall at 11:22 PM on December 12, 2005


Holy crap, did you have an awful relationship with your father or something, kindall?! Your statements, like this alleged HR nazi in the original post, are so absolutist and inhumane as to suggest a pathological need for order or imagined morality. I think Deisen's post above nails it for you, the unnamed HR person, and the others in this thread who honestly think this is even a question. There's something sadly desperate about wanting to be some moral pillar. This isn't 3rd grade, you won't get a gold star for being a pointlessly obsessive tattler.

It's a non-issue; jesus man, how can you not see that? You are flat out wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong about this, just stunningly, awkwardly wrong; and if you can't admit that it's for the same reason you already believe the minority side of this issue: you care more about "being right" than any humanity. There's no dilemma, no need to say anything learned in pillow talk for a fucking job. The only crisis is one this woman, and by extension yourself, has imagined, has manufactured for her own selfish need to feel like friggin' Joan of Arc.

And don't give me some 'character' crap. We live in a complex world, and character is having the wisdom to see what a non-issue this is, that a needless narc on a supposedly close relationship simply for imagined brownie points at a friggin' job. A job where- as others have speculated- if god forbid this crazy woman actually narced her own boyfriend, her own boss would probably think her certifiable, and she'd find every employee in the company literally fleeing her in the hallways. She'd be a paraiah, and rightfully so.

You are classic Homo Corporatus, dude, and that's embarassing. Seriously- it's just a job; it's not special or important, the fate of the world doesn't hang in the balance, and no one owns your soul and eternal fealty for two weeks' paid vacation and a dental plan. it's just a thing we do to make money, to get food and shelter, in lieu of actually going out, and getting food and shelter the really old fashioned way. Now friends, loved ones- these are the real coin of the realm, the rest is just so much busy work to keep us occupied. I mean... Jesus!!! I would have thought the original post was a total fake, if people like you didn't chime in defending the indefensible!


Apropos of nothing... your last blog post even pimps buying a DVD of a french filmmaker's lawbreaking drive through the streets of Paris. Instead of promoting DVD sales of a criminal, shouldn't you instead close down your blog, having put all of your readers in the untenable position of potentially rewarding the felonious? It may have been 27 years ago, but there's no statute of limitations on character...
posted by hincandenza at 2:08 AM on December 13, 2005 [3 favorites]


konolia's right. He lied on his application. What if he'd lied about the college he graduated from? It doesn't matter, right? If he can do his job, why is it important what the name on his degree is? But when this kind of thing happens, it's considered a major scandal, and I think most of you understand why it's a serious problem.

Umm. Hrmm. The difference here is, the college he went to directly refers to his qualifications for the job. Companies are fully allowed by law to discriminate based on college attended (as far as I know), whereas they are not allowed to discriminate based on criminal record, which they most assuredly would do if he had told the truth on his application. Considering it's very likely that he was arrested for being drunk and stupid in public at age 18, this really has no bearing on his qualifications to do his job. In fact, if I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly at age 18 (and subsequently got off with probation and community service), and someone asked me at age 38 if I had ever been convicted of a felony, I probably wouldn't even THINK of that silly drunken night 20 years ago.

Granted, this guy clearly DID think about it, since he mentioned this to his girlfriend. But I wonder if he consciously lied about it on his application, thinking it didn't matter, or if that's just what his retro-active excuse was, after his girlfriend called him on it?

Oh, and I'm also firmly in the "don't tell, duh" camp. You can almost GUARANTEE that this company has a "no employees dating" policy (I've never worked at a company that didn't, and they usually have such policies for exactly this reason), so why is it that she can flout THAT rule but then be in some ethical quandary about reporting him?
posted by antifuse at 2:36 AM on December 13, 2005


she's a soulless [sic] corporate wench who'll rat him out if he so much as steals a paperclip.

to a soulless [sic] corporate tool HR wench who would ruin a life just to make herself feel better.


Why did you [sic]?
posted by speranza at 2:38 AM on December 13, 2005


I just want to thank Mo Nickels for posting this question -- it's been both thought-provoking and entertaining. Please Mo, keep us updated!
posted by JanetLand at 5:29 AM on December 13, 2005


On the off chance that anyone may read this far on what should already be a settled matter (Opion 5, STFU), I can make another reading suggestion for our befuddled lass who faces an ethical quandary--to read the Dissoi Logoi from classical philosophy/rhetoric or excerpts from Fredrick Douglass's Autobiography of a Slave.

(I tried to find full text links for both, but my google-fu is not working)

These two show how one can be completely ethically grounded and yet lie. Now, there are those who believe that there are absolute truths and absolute morals and that humans must obey these at all times. Those people are, in my opinion, deluding themselves.

In the dissoi logoi the speaker asks if it is not right to lie to an aging parent who refuses to take medicine that will alleviate suffering or cure disease, when, in giving food or drink with the medicine in it, one tells the parent that the food does not contain medicine.

In Douglass's case, he did everything he could to teach himself to read, including stealing some ready-to-be-discarded workbooks from the child of his master. That's not the ethical point here, though. At his time, just knowing how to read was a serious crime for African Americans. Douglass lied about his ability on a number of occasions. Should he have told the truth, he would have been severely whipped or worse.

The point is that rules and regulations that are human made (and they all are) are fallible and must be interpreted contextually.

The woman in our case owes no duty to her employer to "out" her boyfriend for some deed 20 years ago. Like Mo, I know people who have always had things going their way and a little bump will throw them into a panic. Ths woman is one of those. She needs to grow up and realize that absolute truths are an absolute fiction.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:34 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Basically, No.
posted by ButWhatDoIKnow at 8:33 AM on December 13, 2005


Mo Nickels: Is this a fake question?

Nope. Not at all. This is a true post. I've got a good long history here at Metafilter, if that counts for anything. Though my first post in 1999 was a self-link, which Matt deleted, and I was one of the first to post while drunk, and I have been known to be curmudgeonly, I think I've got a decent enough track record here to have earned the trust that this is a real post. It's because her point of view is exceptional and she needed to see that, that I posted here.

A couple of other points:

--His crime was a felony, not a misdemeanor.

--He was an adult by law when he committed it.

--I do not have a sufficient relationship with the fellow to tell him of her dilemma.

--She actually is quite a fine woman. She may be flawed and overly idealistic, but that doesn't despoil the rest of her qualities. Also, she is a friend, so please keep the "cunt" comments to yourself.

--I posted this here because I was looking for intelligent comment that would convince her. Thanks to everyone who did indeed offer helpful comments. The rest of you are assigned to the level of Hell where HR people reign.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:36 AM on December 13, 2005


There's something sadly desperate about wanting to be some moral pillar. This isn't 3rd grade, you won't get a gold star for being a pointlessly obsessive tattler.

If you actually read what I said, I did not advocate that she tattle. I suggested a way to avoid being obligated to tattle.

it's just a job; it's not special or important

Which is exactly why I recommended giving it up.

But it now seems to me that this thread is less about doing what's right and more about getting validation from others to do what she has already decided to do. Which is fine, but the thread title is somewhat deceptive in that case.

As for your personal remarks about me, you are out of line.
posted by kindall at 9:21 AM on December 13, 2005


Disgusting... :-(

I hope your lover dumps you.
posted by skjønn at 9:35 AM on December 13, 2005


You said: "I do prize the relationship more than my job." In light of this, you absolutely cannot do #2. If you report him without his knowledge you are making it very clear that the company is more important than he is. Do not consider this for another moment.

3 and 4 seem silly, especially because it may not even be a fire-able offence.

To me, it looks like the real choice is between #1 and the #5.

I'm with the majority here, in that I can't imagine what good could come from reporting him. I like ikkyu2's suggestion:
Tell him you don't believe it and you never want to hear about it again. Make it clear to him that were he to prove it to you, you'd be honor-bound to report it, and that's why you're telling him this. And then, for God's sake, forget about it and go on with your life.
None of us can make the choice for you, though.

If you absolutely feel it's important to share this private information, be sure that he knows well in advance so he's prepared for the possible fall out from that. And be prepared for the possible fall out to you if you report him. How will be feel that you've betrayed his trust? Talk about that with him.

My advice would still be keep your mouth shut & deny deny deny. But you've got to do what's right for you, not what a bunch of strangers on the internet tell you to do. At least from having read this, you'll have some different perspectives on the situation. (Ignore the haters calling you names. They're prone to hyperbole and assholishness.)
posted by raedyn at 9:40 AM on December 13, 2005


A couple of other points:

--His crime was a felony, not a misdemeanor.
--He was an adult by law when he committed it.
--I...The rest of you are assigned to the level of Hell where HR people reign.


Mo, here is the final question. Would the felony be substantially related to his current job? I have a hard time believing that it would be so incredibly serious since he received such a light sentence. But, one never knows.

And...as to your last comment? As an HR person myself, I'm trying to be helpful and I don't consider myself inhabiting any region of hell. But I can think of plenty of non-HR people who I've worked with who DO reside there. So, please, let's stop stoking this "bash all HR people" fire. I've got a 17 year track record defending good employees against sadistic managers/executives, whacked out co-workers, pathetic business decisions and even a really corrupt union which was bilking hourly folks for way more dues than they should have been paying. I am proud of that record and I still keep in touch with many past employees. I don't feel like any company has "owned" me and I have taken a lot of flack over the years for not being a corporate lackey. So, let's not demonize the profession, please.
posted by jeanmari at 9:55 AM on December 13, 2005


But it now seems to me that this thread is less about doing what's right and more about getting validation from others to do what she has already decided to do.

My error; I'd forgotten a bit of context. I should have written: But now it seems to me that this thread is less about doing what's right and more about rationalizing the decisions that people would make in her situation. They have already decided that they'd want to keep the good job and the relationship, so they have decided that someone who knew another employee had lied on their application about having committed a felony would not really be obligated to report it. (Funny how everyone jumped to the conclusion that it was only a misdemeanor -- "coincidentally" an assumption that would support the decision they'd already made.)

Clearly, if the woman in question has asked Mo to post the question here, she does feel a serious internal ethical conflict. Rather than seeking a way to eliminate the conflict, most of the people here have essentially told her she is wrong for feeling the way she does, that there is no actual conflict, and that she should just get over it, that she is stupid and wrong for even spending a moment feeling conflicted. I do not think I would find this kind of advice particularly helpful in her shoes, so I offered a suggestion that would resolve the conflict that she is obviously feeling -- a conflict, if it continues, would undoubtedly cause stress in the relationship, by the way.

She obviously feels uncomfortable with deception of any kind, probably moreso than most people. Good for her.
posted by kindall at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2005


So basically, 99.9% of all Metafilte thinks that she should not report him under any circumstances and a large portion of the crowd thinks even considering doing so is grounds for dumping (and possibly lynching, it's hard to find the deviding line for mefites).

I'm think that this is a pretty well settled issue. I mean when has there been this much concensus on any Metafilter topic?
posted by oddman at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2005


This thread needs a contrarian, so, yes.

Also, next time you meet a Jew, tell him/her that Joos did 9/11.

That being said, this urge to report is clearly not this poor woman's fault: she works in Human Resources, and is therefore simply not thinking straight right now.
posted by gramschmidt at 10:16 AM on December 13, 2005


I'm think that this is a pretty well settled issue. I mean when has there been this much concensus on any Metafilter topic?

Take a look at pretty much any thread about how much Bush sucks. ;)

I'd hope, however, that Mo's friend is considering the arguments the posters in this thread have made, rather than simply counting up the posts for in favor of each decision as though they were votes. You shouldn't let a bunch of complete strangers vote on your decisions that way.
posted by kindall at 10:40 AM on December 13, 2005


MeTa...
posted by Rothko at 10:43 AM on December 13, 2005


I'd like to play devil's advocate and say that she should let this knaw away at her conscience for a while as she becomes more harsh toward her boyfriend until he finally cracks and she truly has a reason to find fault with him. Then, after a messy breakup, she can report him as revenge for his perceived actions and get him fired.

OK, I kid. But really, everyone is imposing some sort of "my needs, my significant other's needs, above all else" policy here. Yes, a company is just a form of employment. Most people hop between companies every few years these days. There are, however, people who feel some loyalty to their coworkers and workplace. It doesn't take much loyalty to want to do your job effectively and ethically, and this particular issue may be one that is going to confront Mo Nickels's friend often. The telltale heart lurking in HR records. It sounds ridiculous, but it's there and it's very real for her. It doesn't mean she doesn't love her boyfriend, it means that she wants to address this instead of dealing with it in a small way every day for years. Maybe she just needs to tune her conscience to filter out low-level noise, but that's how she feels.

The entire "report him" phrasing is horrible, though. If they choose to mention this to the company, it should be together and should either be his task alone or they should both be present. If possible, take it to a superior in HR who is sympathetic rather than to the boyfriend's boss. Is there some sort of hearing/mediation process for this sort of thing?
posted by mikeh at 10:45 AM on December 13, 2005


That said, I have done a lot of work for/with HR departments over the last few years and there are some ridiculously dehumanizing comments here. I've met a share of HR drone types that are being stereotyped, but the majority are well-thinking people who have to deal with pressure from administration, legislated policies that increasingly make their work more difficult or nonsensical, and interactions with employees that are either vague or misleading. Stop acting like anyone with that sort of job is less than human or evil.
posted by mikeh at 10:52 AM on December 13, 2005


Dear girlfriend you are a loser…hope no one suggests your man has cheated on you w/o proof.

Because how can you narc on yourself w/o proof? Think he has all the paper trail generated for this crime still lying around. As if seems proof would be need to report this to the company for it to have any legal action regarding this.

Thus it was 20 years ago; sure it has been wiped off the books. Otherwise like other members have said, it didn’t come up in the background check. Get a life and a lesser man if you need to feel peachy about yourself.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:58 AM on December 13, 2005


I also happen to be dating someone in HR at my company.

I forwarded this thread to her, only to have her turn me in for surfing on the job.

I think she's the one...
posted by daveleck at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


"Also, I somehow doubt there were many HR departments under Stalin."

Stalin ran the "HR" for the Communist Party before he came to power. It was what allowed him to stack the party with his partisans and essentially take over and begin purges.

Y'know, just as a note.

Oh, and since Optimus Chyme and I agree on something, such a rare confluence has to be evidence of the central correctness of the belief.
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on December 13, 2005


Let me clarify why I think she feels a substantial obligation to her employer:

1) It is part of her job to screen potential employees to the company's standards.
2) It is also presumably part of her job to correct errors made by the company in the hiring process; fixing mistakes is a part of most jobs.
3) She has a work ethic that compels her to always do the best job she can.
4) Therefore when she realizes that a mistake has been made, she feels obligated to take steps to correct it.

I think #1 and #2 are reasonable job responsibilities and #3 is generally seen as a laudable personal trait.

If the AskMe question were "I am in HR and have found out that some random guy in the company lied about committing a felony on his job application, what should I do?" I would expect that a not insubstantial number of responders would agree that he deserves to lose his job or at least that she should pass the information along to the appropriate person.

If she were in some other department and happened to fall in love with him, there would be no real conflict and I could be convinced to go with the majority, as in that case it would not be part of her job to help make hiring decisions. This issue is not a matter of generally endorsing "snitching," in other words, but a conflict arising organically from two perfectly reasonable moral imperatives: do the best job you can; be loyal to your significant other.

In her current situation, her ability to be objective as an HR employee has been compromised with regard to this man. This makes it difficult or impossible to do her job 100%, and her work ethic will make sure she suffers for it. She probably can't just choose the boyfriend and put the issue out of her mind, or she wouldn't be asking this question. Rather she will have a nagging feeling that she's done something wrong, albeit a lesser wrong than had she betrayed her significant other's trust, and this will nag at her.
posted by kindall at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2005


Hiring someone is an act of enormous trust and expense on the part of the company.

Yes, and we know there's no such risk or need for trust on the part of a person accepting a job from a company, right? Nobody who has read any of my past answers on corporate issues could mistake me for a raging anti-corporate nut, but suggesting there's no employee risk and much employer gifting is just silly. The most cursory reading of history shows that employers have often held the upper hand and near herculean efforts of organization have been required for workers to achieve positions where they can bargain with some degree of equality.

A working relationship is a trade and the only notable difference between the roles is that employers have many more tools and much more power to insure that good treatment flows their way. An employee often has only the option to walk away. Before I'm going to get worked into a froth over an employee doing a subtle massage on their application I'd like to see an employer than never misled an employee or failed to follow through on their promise.

Similarly silly is the claim that morality and ethics revolve around slavishly following every rule set down and never uttering a fib. Civil disobedience has an honorable history and anyone who makes it through the holiday season without feigning appreciation for a horrible gift is luckier than I have ever been. In my youth in Florida I happily accepted as many blowjobs as I could get despite their being laws on the books at the time making it illegal and I consider myself a fairly honorable person. Others have posted less salacious examples about learning to read if you were a slave. Perhaps many of the Rules At All Cost folks can only see honor in breaking rules before their birth.
posted by phearlez at 11:20 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Stop Snitchin'
posted by Falconetti at 11:26 AM on December 13, 2005


kindall: Funny how everyone jumped to the conclusion that it was only a misdemeanor -- "coincidentally" an assumption that would support the decision they'd already made.

Given that Mo/Mo's friend essentially described it as a minor offense that resulted in a slap-on-the-wrist, I think it's pretty clear that it was an easy assumption that it was a misdemeanor. In other words, I think you've got your cause-and-effect wrong -- we didn't all just take a position to begin with and THEN decide he must have committed a misdemeanor in order to buttress that position; we assumed he committed a misdemeanor in the first place, WHICH INFORMED the position we took. Jesus, is all of this really so unclear?

kindall: In her current situation, her ability to be objective as an HR employee has been compromised with regard to this man.

Well, if that's true, I'd guess that happened when she started dating her coworker several years ago, quite possibly flouting a (commonly instituted) "no coworkers dating" policy. Interesting.

klangklangston (quoting me): "Also, I somehow doubt there were many HR departments under Stalin."
Stalin ran the "HR" for the Communist Party before he came to power. It was what allowed him to stack the party with his partisans and essentially take over and begin purges. Y'know, just as a note.


I studied early 20th-century Russian history for several years so I'm well aware of that, but thanks for taking my off-the-cuff one-liner literally just to make a point. Y’know, just as a note.
posted by scody at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2005


Scody: That comment wasn't meant as a slight. Just what I considered an interesting factoid.
posted by klangklangston at 12:59 PM on December 13, 2005


Well, if that's true, I'd guess that happened when she started dating her coworker several years ago, quite possibly flouting a (commonly instituted) "no coworkers dating" policy. Interesting.

Yeah, I agree. One of them should probably have left at that point. That's one of the reasons.

we assumed he committed a misdemeanor in the first place, WHICH INFORMED the position we took.

I admit to having been somewhat agitated. My apologies; this was entirely unwarranted.
posted by kindall at 1:06 PM on December 13, 2005


That's one of the reasons.

That's one of the reasons people shouldn't date co-workers. Sheesh. Eventually I'll learn to finish my sentences before posting.
posted by kindall at 1:07 PM on December 13, 2005


Sorry, klangklangston -- I misread the tone of your post. So I withdraw my snippy rejoinder. :)

Apolgies to kindall too if I came across as agitated as well. At least we do share the common ground that dating coworkers is a damn sticky situation, no matter if one party works in HR or not!
posted by scody at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2005


I may be missing something here, but: Report him for what?
posted by lodurr at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2005


I deal with felonies and the punishment of on a fairly regular basis, so I'd be interested to know what kind of felony charge would end with a slap on the wrist.
posted by puke & cry at 2:13 PM on December 13, 2005


You have an obligation to your boyfriend not to report it, but you have an obligation to the company to report it. That it was 20 years ago does not mitigate this obligation.

Option #3, quitting, would be ethically justified but would be overkill. Instead, just accept the fact that you're abrogating yourself of responsibility for doing your job. This is not a great leap; pretty much everyone doesn't do what they are obligated to do at work. I'm doing it now while surfing and writing this. It's pretty much the same thing, as far as I'm concerned.

In short, it's a non-issue unless it's wracking you with guilt.

That said: you are ignoring the old axiom that one should not shit where one eats. Dating a coworker is seldom a good idea. And if all goes sour, you still won't be able to report him because doing so would open up the question as to why you didn't do so earlier. ;-)
posted by solid-one-love at 2:13 PM on December 13, 2005


They actually don't have a "don't date a coworker policy" at their company. It's a large company and they work in different divisions, anyway. They do have a "don't date a subordinate or supervisor" policy.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:33 PM on December 13, 2005


I don't know what the felony charge was. I think it might have been a theft of something worth more than the felony dollar limit, but that's only a guess based on tidbits she let drop. Maybe it's just television talking, I could see how a clean-cut guy with no criminal history could plead on that and only do a few years probation and some-odd hundred hours of community service, particularly if there was property recovery or restitution involved.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2005


Regarding the whole felony/misdemeanor thing - in Florida, it is a Class D Felony to violate to Florida Litter Law. So it is entirely understandable that he got charged with a felony and still got a little slap on the wrist (first time offender + silly strict law). Without specifics its impossible to speculate.
posted by gatorae at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2005


Mo Nickels, is your friend named Pavlik Morozov?
posted by orthogonality at 3:25 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I read this whole thread instead of working on an editing job I have to send in tomorrow, but I couldn't resist. Like everyone else (almost), my answer is "NO!" I'd like to especially commend scody's take on things. As for this:

In the meantime, this reminds me of why I've hated just about every HR person I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.

and similar comments, and jeanmari's agitated reaction to them: I completely understand why you feel defensive, but you should be more understanding of everyone else. Those of us with a chip on our shoulder about HR aren't operating on blind prejudice; I'll bet 99% of them have, like me, had runins with HR that left them bruised and resentful, if not actually outraged. It's no good saying "there are bad apples everywhere"; HR, like the law, police work, and politics, selects for certain personality traits that don't go over well with most people, the present case being a perfect example. I'm certainly not saying that all HR people are jerks, and I'm perfectly willing to believe you're a sterling person and the people who deal with you are relieved and happy to find you don't live down to their expectations, but there's a reason those expectations are so low, and if you don't admit it you're being willfully blind. I could tell you stories, but I've yapped enough already.

...OK, just one: at a previous job, the editing dept used to choose among applicants for new editing positions based on 1) ability (based on grading their tests) and 2) compatibility (we all talked with the applicants). In a power grab, HR insisted on making all such decisions themselves. From then on, new hires were 1) less qualified and 2) less compatible as coworkers. But HR had successfully expanded their domain.
posted by languagehat at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


On non-preview: scody and I are probably the only ones who will get orthogonality's excellent joke without having to follow the link.
posted by languagehat at 3:35 PM on December 13, 2005


Wow, what a batshit crazy question. Most job applications I have seen ask the question: "Have you been convicted of a felony/misdemeanor in the last 7 years?" Assuming he hasn't had his job for more than 13 years (if he has, this question just left the earth's orbit in fucked-upness) he didn't do anything wrong whatsoever to warrant any response from your twisted brain-washed friend.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 4:22 PM on December 13, 2005


No employer would reasonably expect her to rat out her own boyfriend for something like that. She is perfectly ethical by not doing so.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2005


Has everyone commented? Okay, good. I think we're done here.
posted by metaculpa at 6:55 PM on December 13, 2005


Er no I haven't, I'm a slow reader. Well the consensus is obviously no but I question Mo Nickels reasons for bringing the question up here.
Were you hoping we'd say yes, rat him out (some of your comments seem to be prompting that way), the BF would be history, and you could pick up the pieces?
posted by Joeforking at 7:18 PM on December 13, 2005


Option 7: Use influential HR position to embezzle huge amounts of money through a complicated and ingenious benefits scam, fake your own deaths, move to Rio.

Option 8: Frame CEO of the company for the boyfriend's old crime, clear boyfriend's name in high-profile appeal, sell story as TV movie of the week, move to Rio.

Option 9: Transform into giant killer robot with laser eyes, burn company to the ground. Move to Rio.


Or are none of those ethical enough for you? Geez. In which case, I dunno, maybe Option 5.
posted by flashboy at 7:34 PM on December 13, 2005


kindall has said a lot about the fact that, to the HR person in question, this is a real moral dilemna, and that we need to take that seriously. And I think that's a legitimate comment.

So I'll just say this. If this is the sort of problem that makes you lose sleep at night, then you are in for a tremendous amount of disappointment, anxiety, and betrayal over the course of your life. It's wonderful that you haven't already encountered a long series of moral problems much harder to figure out than this one, and with much more serious consequences, but you will. And it's wonderful that you haven't been involved with a long succession of lovers (or even just potential lovers) who will turn out one day to not be the perfect people you first thought they were...but you will. And it's great that you've done so little wrong so far in your own life that you consider your failure to act the right way in this case to have a serious bearing on what you think of your own integrity...but with your standards so high, you're making it awfully easy to disappoint yourself...if not now, then in some other situation...most likely, many other situations.

Also, if your boyfriend has much of a spine, he will definitely break up with you if you make any of the choices 1 through 4 and he understands why. Maybe that's a consequence you're willing to live with, but it is a real consequence that you should be taking into consideration. If you really think that you're such an angel, and that your boyfriend should be too, then you need a different boyfriend...the type of guy who could hear this story on a first date and admire you for having the courage to get your previous boyfriend fired. I would not want to know such a person very well, but they are certainly out there.
posted by bingo at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2005


I've been arrested for a felony which I did, in fact, commit. Not twenty years ago, but sixteen.

My crime is also very relevant to many jobs: embezzlement. It was a felony and I was punished less, not more, than this person's boyfriend. Because I had a clean record, my prosecution was diverted into the program that many states have where prosecution is deferred pending the criminal's completion of some penance. I made full restitution and the "probationary" period was one year. I went six months and they said that I was done. I didn't embezzle money. I managed a retail store and I had two things on layaway from my store that I had at home and I had a number of other items. All were recovered. I didn't have the conscious intent to steal, but I am aware that the likliehood that I would eventually have returned those items to the store is uncertain, at best. Even though I don't think I had intent to steal, I am fully aware that I did, in fact, steal and I've never kidded myself about this.

I do not mention this arrest to potential employers because all the employment applications I've seen have asked about felony convictions, not just arrests. Technically, of course, I was not convicted, the charges were dropped. I am uncomfortable with this, even though I am not lying, because in spririt I am lying. Any employer would want to know about an arrest for embezzlement that led to a pre-prosecution diversion. But if I told them this, they surely woud not hire me. What is the right thing to do? Be happy you don't have to worry about it.

My first job after the arrest was in sales for a small company. I was one of two salespeople. Shortly after I started this job, the other salesperson "accidentally" left thousands of dollars worth of merchandise in his car after a trade show, and it was supposedly stolen. I overheard him say something on the phone that very strongly contradicted what he told our employer. Everything about it was suspicious, in fact. I was then in the position of feeling that I should inform my employer of what I had learned while at the same time she had no idea that I myself recently been arrested for embezzlement! So I told her both. She was upset. She fired me, but not unkindly. The other saleperson went on to continue to bamboozle her until she fired him, too.

When you are by all appearances a very honest, open, trustworthy person, but have been arrested for an embezzlement that you committed, you find that this issue and the trust of people around you is not insignificant. I have told every one of the people I've dated since that time about this. Imagine you were my employer. Or my signigicant other. Would you believe you have the right to know? That in not telling you I would be deceiving you? But everyone who knows has been very forgiving and they don't think I'm a bad person or even dishonest. It's almost always more important to me than them. So should I tell myself that when I don't disclose this information to a potential employer? Before and since that time I've been a hiring manager and I've felt that I was given a responsibility to carry that went beyond my own personal preferences. There were times when I made a hiring or firing decision that I would not have made were I only to have to answer to myself. I don't think that mo's friend is crazy for believing herself in an ethical dilemma. I also don't think that he shouldn't have told her. And I think konole's black-and-white view is simplistic.

Mo's friend should look to the spirit of her company's "law", and not the letter which might let her off the hook. Either she can believe and feel that this information about her boyfriend is something that is not relevant to their employer, or that it is. If it is, she has an ethical responsibility to tell them in a way that non-HR employees probably would not. This is her particular responsibility. But that she even worries about it says that she's not ethically lazy: so perhaps she should evaluate what her professional ethical obligation is in light of how she herself feels. She doesn't seem to have any question about her boyfriend's honesty and integrity. Perhaps she should assume that this indicates that her employer shouldn't, either.
posted by I Fought the Law and the Law Kicked Me in the Face at 9:31 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Now friends, loved ones- these are the real coin of the realm, the rest is just so much busy work to keep us occupied.

Stupid HR Girl, read that sentence over and over again until it sinks in. Then let your poor b/f know that you are considering ratting him out, he deserves at least that much from you.
posted by zarah at 10:47 PM on December 13, 2005


Miss Ethical needs to tell her boyfriend she seriously contemplated turning him in, if she wants to keep thinking of herself as Miss Ethical.
posted by mediareport at 11:33 PM on December 13, 2005


I am very curious if the woman in question is in conflict over having to do the right thing in the work-place, as an HR person, or if having found out about her possible one and only's ancient indiscretion has been a deeply disturbing revelation. If the later is true, I can understand her having transferred those doubts to the more comfortable, black and white, more emotionally manageable (for her) structure of her professional responsibility.
posted by johnj at 12:06 AM on December 14, 2005


I agree with those suggesting option 5.

If her concerns are primarily ethical rather than material, she probably shouldn't inform on her co-worker. Loyalty and duty don't enter into it. The first rule (and the first paradox) of ethical living is that it is usually wrong to place your ethical principles above someone else's real welfare. And if you think that opens up a huge can of worms, it only gets more complicated. The situation demands that she keep her mouth shut and swallow the dissonance without making a fuss about it. That is character.

Secondly, I know these two people aren't married yet, Mo, but if they're thinking about it she should consider the vow she may one day wish to take; to love and honour this man, which I would interpret as holding his welfare to be more important than her corporate obligations.

Whether she resigns or not is a different matter. I personally don't think she is obliged to honour (that word again) those parts of a contract which are excessively onerous, unjust, intrusive, punitive or confining. There's no onus to fight fairly against unfair demands. Natural justice recognises this.

I hope your friend wasn't expecting ethical living to be easy, Mo. Nothing is clear cut. It's all lesser-of-two-evils stuff. The best you can hope for is to keep your ethical ledger slightly in credit. And no-one will thank you for it. Maybe she should seek the advice of a priest?

If she would rather be a materialist, she should definitely inform to protect herself and her great job with all it's perks, and she should do so anonymously in case it backfires.

I could understand if she chose to do this. I'd find it disgusting, but I could understand it.
posted by Ritchie at 3:43 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]


really late to the party... but for what it's worth i'd like to back-up jeanmarie about all the harshing on HR workers: quit it!

i've had several jobs with no HR department, just a crazy boss and no buffer - wheee! that's fun - not. yes, i've had a couple jobs with bad HR people. it happens. either they left, or the employees left. and, i've had a few jobs where HR made a real, very positive difference.

at my last job, the HR was managed by one of the best people i've ever known, with all of the good qualities attributed to mo nickels' friend. she was (and still is) a major reason most employees "give 100 percent" at that job. the CEOs know this, and allow her authority to make major decisions.

and, this woman did date and eventually marry a coworker. i doubt very much (from my own personal experience with her, on other issues) that if her SO had told her of something like this, in private, outside of the job, that it ever would have been mentioned - to anyone.

it seems to me mo nickels has a problem with this "friend". mo judges her for seeking "drama" and refers to HR people as reigning over a "level of hell" - what's up with that, mo? despite your protestations of how good a person she is, you seem kinda pissed at her. and with the HR profession.

anyway. she learned of this outside of the workplace. she should keep her mouth shut about it. she and yeah should tell her boyfriend she thought about reporting him. and then she should let it go.

like i'm gonna do. thanks.
posted by lapolla at 3:54 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]


"The first rule (and the first paradox) of ethical living is that it is usually wrong to place your ethical principles above someone else's real welfare."

Sophistry. And smug sophistry, at that. This may seem to you to be an accurate restatement of Kant's Categorical Imperative, but it's not. Or, if it is, then its conception of "someone's real welfare" is far more sutble than you imply and is unlikely to simply validate a participation in the violation of one person's trust to protect another person's trust.

Really, it's probably the case that you're merely begging the question by implicitly asserting, without support, that your preferred course of action is the one that protects another person's "real welfare" while the action you dislike harms it. One notable and suspicious characteristic of your implicit reasoning is that it's without a doubt the most comfortable and self-serving way of looking at the problem. It is the path of least-resistance. Offered alone as part of this argument, with no indication of how difficult a concept it really is, "real welfare" is nothing more than unexamined personal preference dressed up to pretend to be a serious philosphical principle. It ominously reminds me of the suspicious reasoning of the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, Leon R. Kass, that privileges "gut instinct" as the foundation of ethical principle. How convenient.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:49 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]


To directly anser the post's question, I agree with the other people here who say that she should not rat out her boyfriend.

But I don't agree simply on the unexamined basis that she has no real responsibility to a soulless corporation, or that her boyfriend has done nothing wrong, or that his transgression is obviously irrelevant to his job, or that it's simply so long ago that it doesn't matter, or that she can and should neatly seperate her personal and professional lives, or that merely believing herself to be in a conundrum indicates that she's a smug do-gooder concerned only with validating her narcissistic need to feel herself to be better than others, or that upholding his trust hurts no one while betraying his trust hurts everyone.

Instead, I agree while having taken her concerns seriously and examining this as a substantial ethical problem. It is more likely than not that his and her responsibiity to their employer, and the implicit trust, is very small compared against their responsibilities, and trust, to each other. Unless his crime is unquestionably important to the context of his employment, she has no responsibility to report it to their employer.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:06 AM on December 14, 2005


EB, I cannot tell you whether or not it is an accurate restatement of Kant or not, as I've never read Kant and I have no idea what he does and doesn't validate, but in this instance, there is no choice between two people's trust, as a corporation is not a person.

I wasn't trying to coin a phrase by saying 'real welfare'. I was simply referring to the real circumstances a person lives in. In this case, their employment. To interfere with their ability to turn a buck is to interfere in their welfare.

If I unwittingly kicked a philosophical ant's nest with the phrase 'first rule of ethics' that, then please chalk it up to ignorance on my part, and feel free to educate me should you be so inclined.
posted by Ritchie at 6:14 AM on December 14, 2005


If she really wants to be ethical, she should resign. It's easy to be ethical when other peopleget hurt.

That this question can be seriously asked tells me all I need to know about this women.
posted by salmacis at 6:24 AM on December 14, 2005


Ritchie, a corporation is not a person, but her manager probably is. But there's also the deeper problem of defining what "real welfare" is. Is her boyfriend's "real welfare" better served by participating in his dishonesty or refuting it? I happen to agree with your judgment in this particular matter, but I don't agree on the basis of what seems to me to be your simplistic and probably self-serving reasoning. Okay, you're being very polite and respectful to me while I'm being condescending to you—that's ugly and unkind of me. But the truth is that I'm really bothered by your comment because, well, the reasons I say. I used the example of Kass not casually, but very pointedly, because I find his reasoning to be a deeply self-serving prejudice cleverly elevated to ethical principle by authoritative, and attractive, argument.

Put another way, but also sort of repeating myself, using the expression "real welfare" as the foundation of an argument without rigorously examining what "real welfare" might mean—and especially when "real welfare" implicitly equates to a determination ruled by common sense and the path of least resistance—is just a reification of one's subcultural status quo. You can see it in Konolia's analysis which is qualitatively essentially the same as your own and differing only, but crucially, in how "real personal welfare" is evaluated.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:47 AM on December 14, 2005


Sophistry. And smug sophistry, at that. This may seem to you to be an accurate restatement of Kant's Categorical Imperative....

Sophistry? Hmm. I must have a different definition of "sophistry."

Anyway, most of us don't live our ethical lives according to rules divined by a religious fanatic who made his living writing travel books and yet never left his home town.
posted by lodurr at 6:59 AM on December 14, 2005


Thanks for the clarification, EB. I probably deserve the condescension - upon re-reading my initial post I've realised I was being smug, and pompous too (and might not have realised it had it not been for your clip over the ear). My apologies to Mo.
posted by Ritchie at 7:13 AM on December 14, 2005


"Sophistry? Hmm. I must have a different definition of 'sophistry'."

Well, quite obviously, given that you said:

"Anyway, most of us don't live our ethical lives according to rules divined by a religious fanatic who made his living writing travel books and yet never left his home town."

...with no apparent recognition of the irony.

Ritchie, your grace rightly shames my arrogance—which was at least equal to yours, even if I was right. Nevertheless, it is quite important to recognize that moral philosophy, and religion, and law, and cultural values—both in the West and the East—have all been grappling for millenia with what "best welfare" really means because it's not so obvious that it's something we can easily all agree upon.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:02 AM on December 14, 2005


[a few comments removed, please take further Kantian discussion and insults to email or MetaTalk]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:32 AM on December 14, 2005


Mo, what happened? did this thread have any influence at all?
posted by mirileh at 5:38 AM on December 17, 2005


I've marked the comment by "I Fought the Law and the Law Kicked Me in the Face" as the best one. It is a considered, informed, well-written opinion.

Lapolla wrote, it seems to me mo nickels has a problem with this "friend". mo judges her for seeking "drama" and refers to HR people as reigning over a "level of hell" - what's up with that, mo? despite your protestations of how good a person she is, you seem kinda pissed at her. and with the HR profession.

Don't read too much into my HR slam. I have no particular grudge or story; this is just the accumulated understanding of years of employment. In general, they are good people. But they're meddlers. They insert themselves unnecessarily in business decisions. They are also masters of make-work, bureaucracy, and Kafkaism. They also don't believe in rush jobs, exceptions, or waivers. They will withold information and decisions pending the arrival of a piece of paper on which words are written of which they already have full knowledge.

Yes, I am indeed exasperated with my friend. I want her to make good decisions. She's the kind of gal who at times seems perfectly competent and at others makes me want to wrap her in tissue paper and keep her in my pocket.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:20 AM on December 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


What about Mo Nickels' obligation as an ethical agent? I think Mo should grass on the boyfriend to the company then let the boyfriend know that it was the girlfriend who did the grassing such that the boyfriend dumps the coldhearted harridan and has some chance at future happiness.
posted by biffa at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2005


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