A Case of Ethical Dilemma
The newspaper columnist
In this dilemma we will be looking at wrong versus right and should be versus what is. When you sign a contract with another person or entity it is a formal agreement that has legal bindings. When the columnist signed the contract with the newspaper chain they were giving their word that they would work for a certain amount of time for a certain amount of money. Just because you change your mind does not remove your word. By breaking the contract they went back on their word which is wrong to do. They strength of your word is your ability to follow through with it, and by not following through it hurts your credibility.
What the columnist should have done was to go to the newspaper chain and explain that they would like to be relieved of their word/contract so that they could pursue other interests. If the newspaper chain agreed to let them out of the contract then the columnist would be free to leave without having commit any unethical actions. Beings the columnist was not released willingly, to act ethically they should have fulfilled their commitment before moving on to another opportunity. Beings a judge is having to decide the legality of the columnist breaking the contract we can know that the newspaper chain did not release them willingly and an unethical action was committed. While these actions do not follow under the classification of good or evil; they can be appropriately classified as wrong.
I believe that both Augustine and Aquinas would have come to the same conclusion that I came to. Augustine believed that we are responsible for our own actions and that we should strive to live a virtuous life, which would include being true to your word. He also believed that living a life of reason led to ones well-being, and following through on a commitment made is a reasonable expectation. Aquinas thought that using reason and living morally led to a better life (happiness). He believed that the Natural Law can be realized by using reason and your conscience which will lead you to do what is right. All of these practices and ideas would lead you to fulfill the contract if those you entered into it with were unwilling to release you from it.
The office worker
In the case of the office worker, their actions are unethical for many reasons. Using your vacation days and sick leave days is a perfectly ethical act; even using days beyond these with permission in and of itself isnt unethical. The actions become unethical when there is a noticeable negative effect on those affected by your actions. Once the office worker realized that he was creating hostility with those around him, and his supervisor he should have made adjustments that would have mitigated the issues caused by his desired time off. His actions created a heavier workload on his fellow workers and caused a lack of efficiency for the company that pays him to help them by facilitating his function.
Some actions that he could have been performed to help prevent this action from being unethical would be; work late to get ahead so that in his absence other workers wouldnt have to work harder to make up for his absence, check to see if there was a way to work remotely such as teleworking or a collaborative suite such as SharePoint site setup that would allow him to still facilitate his function while away. While I think his actions are unethical I believe that some of the fault lies on the supervisor for either not having clearly defined the expectations to him upon being hired, or not counseling him on the possible repercussions of excessive time off and following through on it so that others dont suffer due to his lack of dedication.
Augustine and Aquinas both would have agreed with my interpretations. Both of these men had there concepts of right and wrong taken from biblical teachings. Because their principals are founded on Christian teachings; the proverbs about working hard would likely have been a reference used by these two men. Your conscience should alert you when you are doing something that is unfair or harmful to others and because of this the office workers conscience should have made him try to avoid causing unnecessary hardship on his fellow workers. Aquinas would have likely pointed out that he surely was ignoring his heart and conscience otherwise he would not have taken those extra days off.