Is this ethical?

So, I’ve come up with a moral conundrum, and I’m seeking input.

At school, I have a work-study job as part of my financial aid deal. 10 hours a week at $7.25/hr. It’s off-campus, in a Santa Fe museum office. I normally work two days a week. We’re paid once a month, when we bring our complete time sheets (all hand-kept records, no timecards or anything).

Here’s the conundrum: my boss at work wants to give me a sort of paid vacation day, the first day I’m back from break. He told me to just go ahead and put the usual 5 hours on the timesheet, and he’d sign it. However, in the work study program, we don’t get anything like that; you’re paid for the hours you work and that’s it.

It’s not as if my boss is the one who pays me. The college I attend has a specific amount of money given to them from the federal government, which they use as the work-study paychecks. The office I work in is just sort of a vessel, I guess. So I’m feeling like my boss doesn’t really have the right to give me money I haven’t earned.

I told this to one of my friends, who looked at me and said, “Are you crazy? take the free paycheck.”


If I were you, I’d take the money but since you think it’s a dilemma, it’s pretty obvious you have problems with it and should not.

If you can’t get any better guidance, I would lean toward not taking the paid day off. However, I recommend talking with someone in your school’s financial aid office: maybe you can get permission to take advantage of your boss’s generosity?

Just to clear up the muddy language in that post, by “if I were you”, I meant “if it were me”.

A free paycheck would be nice, but if you’re already feeling weird about it maybe that’s because you already feel it’s unethical?

If so, ask financial aid. I’m fairly certain financial aid will say no, but at least you’ll have guidence.

I thought of this story when I read the OP:

My daughter-in-law worked for a major Seattle-based department store. Back in February, she found in the mall parking lot one of her store’s gift cards that when she checked it had like $3.52 left on it. There was no name on it, no way to identify who it belonged to–it was just like finding cash on the sidewalk. She put it in her purse and basically forgot about it. One day several months later she was in the employee cafeteria and came across it again and figured, what the heck, I will pay for my salad and juice with the card, cuz how could it be traced. Of course, they somehow figured out it was she that used it and fired her for theft!!! Their take on the matter was she should have turned in the card when she found it and she used “unauthorized company funds for personal gain”. What a crock!!!

She was glad to be out of the job anyway, but this to me illustrates how something innocent can be blown up into a big deal–she and her new husband were definitely not prepared to have their income cut in half. And because her reason for termination was theft her unemployment benefits were denied.

If in any possible way it could jeopardize your financial aid, don’t do it. Your boss has good intentions, however it could have long term repercussions.

Take the moral high road.
Tell your boss that you have personal standards that you’d rather not compromise, and it just doesn’t feel right to you.

Wouldn’t that have the potential to get the boss in hot water?

That said, I’d take the money. It’s the gummint, after all. Without getting into GD or political territory, I am what is called the “working poor”. I am not a student, or disabled, or an ethnic minority, or anything else that can get me government rebates or concessions. I don’t claim social security, I am frequently met with a look of surprise by railway ticket sellers that I’m asking for a full fare (only person he’s seen all day without a concession card), then at the other end of the scale, the wealthy have the ability to access all kinds of tax breaks and other government schemes. We PAYE types get slugged with high income tax, and little to claim back (my wife actually got a bill this year). So, to the OP, this single day’s pay may well be the only few bucks you’ll ever get out of the government. Take it and enjoy!

If I’m understanding it correctly, the boss doesn’t have such great intentions. Sounds like he’s stealing from taxpayers like me in order to get approval from people like you. Probably feels like he’s a really good person because of it. I’d say turn him in and then he’ll be fired and you’ll have a chance to work for someone with some integrity.

Just kidding about the last line. I have no idea what you should do. If it were me I’d turn it down, but it’s not me.

This fails at least two of the three honor tests that cadets are made to learn at West Point.

One: does the action confer an advantage to which I am not entitled?
Two: would I feel comfortable with the whole world knowing what I did?
Three: would I feel comfortable with the positions reversed?

It seems to me that taking the money/time fails on the first two points:

1). You know the system is not set up for you to take money that started with the taxpayers, you know the deal was not set up to give your professor the authority to give you free money (despite the fact that you really ought to be getting some bennies).

2). You would not like the whole truth published with all the details.

  1. Three is probably irrelevant.

It’s a bad idea to ask someone in authority about it because it could get your boss in trouble. He is just trying to be nice but is doing it the wrong way. You need to follow your heart on this one.

I was in a similar situation in college one time. I applied for a student loan one year. I was granted the loan and due to a paperwork screw-up offered a grant (basically free money from the govenment) that I didn’t deserve. I turned down the grant money. The people in the Aid Office were floored because this was apparently unprecidented. I could have used the check but it would not have been the right thing to do.

I think most people would take advantage of the offer and feel fine about it. Many of those same people seem to think that they’re entitled to as much of the tax payers money that they can get. Since you’re getting guilt pangs, you know that taking the money is wrong and you shouldn’t do it.


I agree with most others - if you have to ask if it is ok, that means you already know it isn’t.

If you do what is in your eyes the moral thing to do, you will remember always that you did it, and be proud. It will help to build character that is worth far more than an extra day.

I think that you should give yourself a pat of the back for being the sort who would question the wisdom. You are much younger than I was when I I wondered about such things.

It’s especially interesting that you hesitated when it is the government and not an individual.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid! :slight_smile:

Sheesh, just ask your boss if he’s sure it’s okay/legal/not something either of you can get into trouble over. If he doesn’t immediately and completely set your mind at ease, then politely decline.

Sorry for the sheesh, it just seems so simple to me.

What I mean is, it may be entirely within his rights and part of his discretionary budget.

The purpose of the work-study program is to A: provide finacial aid for students B: help staff on-campus jobs that otherwise might not merit hiring someone for. If you take the paycheck, I think you are still fulfilling the program’s purposes. Many work study positions are “make-work” type things and if the work isn’t made for a day I don’t really see the difference. Your bills still need to be paid and the department/government has still budgeted for you. But of course, go with your heart.

Don’t do it, don’t mention it to anyone else. If it’s bothering you then you shouldn’t do it (just for your own peace of mind) but asking another authority (financial aid) would bring attention to your (presumably) well-meaning boss, and as others have said, you don’t want that.

Just pretend to forget about it, and if the boss reminds you, give some excuse (or simply say that you’re very anal about your time sheets and you just can’t reconcile adding hours without actually working them).

I think it is fine. It’s what your boss wants and failing “crimes against humanity” thus that’s what you should do. I am assuming by this that your boss is not related to you, etc.

That’s what, $40? What would you do with that money? Take it if you need it. Or if it does not contradict your morality. I’ve been playing Star Wars: KOTOR II on Xbox, and I can say for sure that not taking it would definitely give you some Light Side Points. However, taking it would not necessarily get you Dark Side Points; it depends how much $40 would benefit you compared to the rest of the galaxy.


After some thought, I think I will politely decline, and I’m not going to mention it to anyone in the work-study office at school when I get back. My boss is just trying to be nice, a Christmas bonus of sorts; I’d hate for him to get in trouble.

I’m back in my Summer Job From Hell working in a fast-food joint for the rest of winter break; that’ll balance out the cost.

sigh The extra couple bucks would be nice. The money I make from work-study is mine, as per the deal with my parents: I focus on schoolwork and not relapsing into the emotional chaos I’ve dragged myself out of, they pay for college. The loans that are in my name are, of course, mine to pay off eventually, and anything I want, rather than need, is up to me. Which is a very cushy deal, IMO, which I’m happy with. I’m pretty much saving everything I earn, as I’m hoping to both buy a (cheap and crappy) car and move off-campus into a (cheap and crappy) apartment by junior year.

I appreciate the discussion on it. Gives me something to do on my non-existant new year’s celebration…