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The Ethicist
February 21, 2011

Randy Cohen writes "The Ethicist" column in The New York Times Magazine. If you'd like help with a moral dilemma you're facing at school, at home, or at work, send your question to: ethicist@nytimes.com or The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10018, and include a phone number.

Delivery Dilemma



Is it wrong to order food for delivery during a bad thunderstorm? If I'm doing it to avoid going outside and getting wet or struck by lightning, isn't it wrong to have somebody else (with little power to refuse) do it in my place?
JAMES J. STRANKO, New York

AS SOMEONE who seldom mines his own coal, I am in no position to condemn those who leave difficult, dangerous, or simply miserably uncomfortable jobs to other people.

But here is how you can do so ethically: You can support businesses that strive to ensure that people in such jobs work in decent conditions with their health and safety protected, earn decent wages, and receive the benefits that we all want and that many of us expect in our wealthy nation. Those include medical insurance and a vacation now and then.

You can't always know such things, of course, but you can at least make some effort to learn facts about the people you employ either directly or indirectly.

You can also tip generously—even lavishly—when someone is working for you under unusually rough conditions.


(The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 143, February 21, 2011)