There is no shortage of ethical challenges in a school nutrition setting. Raise awareness about these with members of your own team by discussing the following case study. The school district is always looking for new ways to recognize or reward their staff for a job well done. In recent years, redistributing gift cards that have been donated by vendors as contest prizes or thank-yous have become a very popular means to demonstrate this appreciation. Recently, the school nutrition director has decided to use the gift cards she had been accumulating as end-of-year employee rewards. The vast majority of these range in value from $50 to $500 and typically can be used at any retail establishment. The director works out an award matrix to ensure that the cards are distributed equitably among the staff recipients. (The largest gift card, valued at $500, is awarded to the Cafeteria of the Year and is to be reinvested in that site’s operation.) The individual gift card recipients are informed that the cards can be used for personal use, since they are a reward for personal achievement. Since it is a monetary reward that does not actually come from the district budget, it is a common practice to not include gift card amounts in records regarding an employee’s total compensation. In fact, the gift cards and the amounts the employees receive are not recorded anywhere. The director has not tracked the cards by the company that donated them nor by the card identification number, amount or recipient. After the distribution of gift cards at the awards ceremony, a manager approaches the director with some concerns, because she is aware that the district has a policy about gift cards that differs from what the director announced. The director advises the manager that she knows about the policy, but it’s outdated and other department heads in the district handle cards the same way that she does. You are the manager in this scenario. What Should You Do? SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: • What aspects of this case study make you uneasy? Why or why not? • As described, are any of the actions illegal? Immoral? Could someone’s job be at risk? • What might the reaction be if details about this scenario were shared outside the department? How would reactions vary among school administrators/board of education members, the state agency, the media and parents? • Do we have a district or department policy that would apply to this situation? Does everyone know about it and adhere to it? • Does this scenario bring up other ethical challenges we should discuss? • How should we go about raising concerns or reporting incidents of unethical behaviors? What if we don’t all agree that an activity or behavior is unethical? What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making In School Nutrition This ethical case study was developed for but may or may not be included in the final version of SNA’s What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making in School Nutrition training course (see page 44). The discussion questions included here are intended to help SN readers raise awareness about ethical dilemmas in the workplace. SNA’s programming goes further, guiding participants through a decision-making tree and providing other resources to build skills.
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