Ethical Dilemma

Babysitting a Sick Kid

Albina Tiplyashina/

When I arrived to babysit for a family whose kids I adore, the mother told me her daughter was coming down with a cold. Shouldn’t she have warned me in advance? I’m a student and don’t have time to get sick. I stayed, but my dad says I should have left. Is he right?  —Eve R., New Jersey

ANSWER He’s not. You did well not to leave this mother in the lurch, although she should have told you promptly about her child’s health and let you decide if you wanted the job. An employer should not significantly alter the terms of employment. But her failure to alert you to this minor malady is not enough reason to walk out on her. And there’s the possibility that her child’s symptoms emerged too late for the mom to make other arrangements. Nobody has time to get sick, but with ordinary precautions, most people don’t need to become hermits to avoid catching a cold.

Adapted from ‘The Ethicist’ in The New York Times Magazine

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