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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Inconvenient Tumble




Editor’s Note: Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

Roger Green liked his shop manager. Since he’d hired him 10 years ago, Chris Gallagher had proved to be a talented custom metalsmith and later, an effective shop manager.

For Chris’s part, the job was the perfect fit. He’d moved to the high-end resort town that was home to Green Mountain Jewelers in a leap of faith after vacationing with some mountain-biking friends. In addition to the beautiful Pacific Northwest setting, Green Mountain Jewelers provided the best life balance he’d experienced in his 30 years as a jeweler, allowing him plenty of time to pursue his biking hobby.

Roger was keen to support his workers’ outside activities and his store had even sponsored some of Chris’s charity races. But if he had one concern about his shop manager, it was Chris’s inflexibility surrounding his off time. While Chris was more than willing to do whatever was necessary for the store “on the clock,” he was just not the type to go “above and beyond” if it involved anything beyond regular hours. On the whole though, Chris did a good job for the store, and Roger was happy. Clients and staff liked him, his work was great, and he kept things in the shop under control and profitable so that Roger could focus on marketing and on developing other business ventures. He didn’t like to think about having to run Green Mountain without Chris.

Last June, the unthinkable happened. On a Sunday ride to the grocery store, Chris was forced to evade a car driving the wrong way in the parking lot. He struck a pothole and was thrown from his bike, hitting the ground hard. The most serious of his injuries was to his left knee – a hairline fracture and ligament damage. While his doctors anticipated an eventual, full recovery, he was off work for three weeks – among the busiest of the year in the resort town — and was moving pretty slowly when he came back, with his knee in a brace.

Chris told Roger at that point that at a friend’s suggestion, he had contacted an attorney, and was suing the parent company of the grocery store for negligence. To his credit, Chris worked hard to arrange his physical therapy sessions around his store schedule, most often before opening. The appointments made him late at least once each week, but the rest of the team pitched in to cover during his absence and after his return, and all in all, things seemed to be working well.


By October, after several months of what appeared to be effective therapy, Chris was working a full schedule again, and was back to riding his bike as though nothing had happened.

But on Oct. 20, Chris surprised Roger, telling him that his doctors were not, in fact, pleased with the way his knee was healing. He said he would need to have surgery to repair a ligament, and that the surgery would have to be scheduled for mid-November. He also presented Roger with a series of documents from his doctor and from his lawyer, explaining that he would need at least 8 weeks of disability/recovery time after the surgery. Roger was baffled. He questioned Chris about the apparent shift of opinion, but Chris became very defensive and said that he was committed to following the instructions of both his medical and legal providers. When he asked Chris about the possibility of postponing the surgery till after the holidays – by far the busiest time of the year for custom work in the store – Chris indicated that the timing of the surgery and the length of the required leave were both dictated by the lawsuit, and that his hands were tied. He did tell Roger, though, that his doctor expected that he would be up and around within two weeks after the surgery, and that, if Roger would sign the document that “officially” put him on disability leave for the required period (for the benefit of the lawyers and the grocery store’s insurance company), he could come back to work in the store as soon as he felt up to it.

The BIG Questions
What should Roger do? Is it reasonable to expect Chris to postpone a surgery that appears to be more legal than health related? Is Chris’s offer to work through his “disability” a serious ethical issue? If it is, should Roger fire Chris or should Roger help the store and take Chris up on his offer?
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