Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/17: Richard Simmons, Stilettos, A Sarcastic Cop, And The Post Sides With Palin


1.Good riddance to August, which had the worst fall-off in traffic here relative to the previous year of any month in Ethics Alarms history. I only have theories, the main one being that last August’s surge was an anomaly fueled by the Presidential campaign and the fact that Ethics Alarms was analyzing the ethics deficits of Hillary, Trump, the news media and both parties in roughly equal measure, since they were misbehaving in roughly equal measure.  Since “the resistance” and their allies in the news media, academia and elsewhere decided to reject democratic institutions like elections and the office of the Presidency in their revulsion, and mount a dangerous perpetual assault on the President with the objective of  undermining his leadership and having him removed extra-Constitutionally, the left-leaning end of the blog-reading pubic has become rigid and unyielding, and unable to tolerate even considering any position but their own. I’m seeing it on Facebook, every day. Their position is indefensible on the facts, so they find any critical analysis of their conduct and attitudes unpleasant. Then again, it could be because Google is burying my posts for being insufficiently politically correct, or because I suck.

2. Here’s a perfect example of the kind of ethics issue that only deserves Warm-Up status: Melania’s shoes as she boarded Air Force One on the way to  Houston.

(She was in sneakers when she landed, and was mocked for that, too.)

The New York Times and other Trump-Hate news sources actually thought this fashion choice by the ex-model was worthy of criticism. In Melania Trump, Off to Texas, Finds Herself on Thin Heels , Vanessa Friedman spend hundreds of words dissecting how the stilettos were “a symbol for what many see as the disconnect between the Trump administration and reality.” Apparently the First Lady broke the “No high heels when leaving a disaster” rule in the First Family Ethics Manual. Letter writer Dennis Donalson correctly chided the Times, writing in part,

The fact that she wore high heels when boarding a plane, regardless of her destination, is not newsworthy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and shoes are just shoes, not “the go-to stand-in for more nuanced, complicated emotions and issues.” Give Melania, and us all, a break.

Dennis notwithstanding, I’ve decided stories like this are wonderful: they are smoking gun evidence for anyone who isn’t similarly deranged that the news media is so consumed with anti-Trump mania that it is literally unable to determine what is or isn’t fair, proportionate and reasonable coverage. If the Times thinks Melania’s shoes are such a big deal, no wonder it goes nuts over what the President says to the Boy Scouts…and no wonder it is no longer reasonable to accord such a paper any credibility or respect at all.

3.  A Cobb County (Georgia) cop, now ex-cop, has learned the hard way that rueful sarcasm about his profession will be given no quarter when it lands on the third rail of race. Lt. Greg Abbott told a white driver who was being difficult in a 2016 DUI traffic stop—when  she did not want to put her hands down to reach for her phone because, she said,she had seen  too many videos of cops shooting unarmed citizens—“But you’re not black! Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?”

It sounds like something I might say, in a particularly snarky mood. However, no police department can afford to be understanding when a video shows an officer saying that, even if he punctuated it with a rim shot and was wearing a clown nose. Although it is obvious what he meant, and  though he was trying to gently prod a confrontational drunk into complying with his lawful directions,  and though the officer had nearly 30 years of distinguished service, he had to be fired, and authorities had to mouth the necessary pieties about how horrible he was. I would have fired him. I would have fired me.

They do not have to destroy him however. Although Abbott retired when the writing was on the wall, the Department reportedly might try to take his pension away. This will prove that it really has no tolerance for cops who admit that they only shoot black people, though it was obvious that he was sarcastically deriding the anti-cop narrative that has been fanned by activists, the news media, and some genuinely bad police officers.

4.  Erik Wemple, the WaPo’s journalism blogger, has good ethics days and bad ethics days (unlike, say, CNN’s fake ethics watchdog, Brian Stelter, who has almost exclusively bad ethics days), but he had a good one this week, in an opinion piece about a judge’s decision to let the New York Times claim outrageous carelessness and incompetence when it was almost certainly being reckless, and to dismiss Sarah Palin’s libel suit. (The Ethics Alarms analysis is here.)

Wemple wrote, reflecting on his statement in an earlier post that Palin had a strong case,

Never again will we sell short jurisprudence that protects journalists when writing about public figures. These protections are so powerful that an editor, without doing any research to speak of, can insert language in an editorial accusing a politician of inciting murder — and secure a quick and unequivocal bouncing of the case.

Wemple also noted that the Times still hasn’t had the decency to apologize to Palin:

The lingering lesson of the case is that the New York Times could well have saved itself the hassle of even a short-lived court proceeding, though doing so would have required it to shed its institutional arrogance for a day or two. Consider that the paper’s response to learning of the falsehood was sufficient to satisfy a judge ruling on a lawsuit, but not sufficient to satisfy any standard of decency and respect. The immediate correction, after all, didn’t even mention Palin’s name: “An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.” Nor did a second correction…

As for apologies, the newspaper issued one to its readers, not to Palin herself. “The Times did not issue a full and fair retraction of its defamatory Palin Article, nor did it issue a public apology to Mrs. Palin for stating that she incited murder and was the centerpiece of a ‘sickening’ pattern of politically motivated shootings,” notes the Palin camp’s original complaint.

…Some folks in the medical industry have learned that heartfelt apologies, full disclosures and appropriate compensation not only head off lawsuits, but improve care as well….Decency pays off, in other words. We’re not arguing that the New York Times should have handed Palin a bundle of cash. A letter of apology would have done just fine. Now that a judge has dismissed her complaint, there’s no pressure on the New York Times to take this step. Which is all the more reason it should.

Only the fact that Wemple hasthe conflict of working for the Times’ rival, tainting his criticism, kept me from giving him an Ethics Hero for that section.

Meanwhile, I hope Palin isn’t holding her breath waiting for the Times to be decent.

5. On the topic of libel, Richard Simmons’ defamation suit against the National Enquirer and Radar Online has also been tossed, out of L.A. Superior Court by Judge Gregory Keosian. Those low-rent sources published stoies that Simmons was transitioning to fair womanhood,  and that was not true.

The decision, notes Professor Turley, seems based on changing cultural norms. Once, alleging that someone was a homosexual was considered per se defamation. Since evolving cultural norms hold that being gay or transgender is nothing to be ashamed of, Simmons couldn’t claim to be damaged by the false allegation. Keosian writes that  being falsely called transgender does not engender  “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy,” and therefore cannot be defamation.

But this is Richard Simmons, after all, not John Wayne.

47 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/17: Richard Simmons, Stilettos, A Sarcastic Cop, And The Post Sides With Palin

  1. Regarding the sarcastic cop: as I’ve said many times in this column, I think comments have to be understood in context. This is no different.

    As you note, it was obvious from the context what he meant. I’ve made the point numerous times about “black lives matter,” and about how the same words when uttered by black people have different meanings when uttered by white people.

    I think this is the same. If it was obvious what he meant, then why should we defend the police department for bowing to perceived PC implications? The department should back him up and make an intelligent, forceful statement about how cops are required to make on-the-spot judgments about the individual in front of them, and not be slaves to the perception outside.

    I wouldn’t even have fired him, much less go after him to make an example. By that logic, all the statues should come down (which I don’t agree with either).

    • I’m going to post this as a Comment of the Day, Charles. I admire the integrity of the comment, and you are right, except that I have a hard time believing that a department could risk doing the right thing here. If a black motorist were shot by another officer in that department, or, heaven forbid, the same one, no matter what the circumstances, that comment would be on T-shirts.

      But again, you are right on the ethics from the cop’s point of view. He is being destroyed for appearances sake, in defiance of reality.

      • You’re totally right about the politics, and I agree in the horrific event that the same cop had shot someone black it’d be a bridge too far. But, as you say, it’s an ethics column and it needs to be said. (And thanks very much for the callout).

  2. #3)

    You need a side business, offering services to organizations that need to craft balanced statements for why they take certain actions.

    If it is appropriate to insist the officer retire and STILL appropriate to maintain his pension, maybe organizations are too stupid to put these balances into words, which is why they just pick one extreme end of the options over the other…to keep the communication easy.

    You should offer, for a small fee, “statement production” services, so that organizations can do the right thing (which is often a middle road option), and communicate clearly WHY it’s the right thing.

    • Too many ethical conflicts! Jack’s job is hard truth. This is different than ordinary practice of law, where Jack is offering an opinion of the correct path, rather than ordinary law where the attorney advises a client through their numerous options, finding one that is legal, but not necessarily the most ethical. Add cash, and there is an appearance that Jack’s statements of “truth” are colored by those who pay him. He has an interest in maintaining his reputation as an objective commentator and advocate for ethical behavior. This conflicts with the companies interest in spinning its behavior in the best possible light, even if its goal is to do the “right thing”.

      An attorney sufficiently trained in ethics, but who is not simultaneously an ethics advocate, but might be in a better position to offer such a service.

      • Although on a second thought, I am not sure if this proposed “side job” would differ from an “ethics adviser” position, distinct from a legal role.

      • I would definitively think that implementing such a service, Jack would clearly caveat that he will ONLY help produce a statement if the decision being communicated were the ethical decision, which I think would imply Jack helping the organization get to the ethical decision.

        My thoughts are that *most* organizations feel the pressures of time and literally EVERYTHING else they have to do, so they settle on decisions that are easiest to communicate, which in many cases veer towards the poles on the continuum of available choices.

        If someone offered them guidance in these choices supplemented with the final communication of WHY the selected choice was the ethical one…

        I donno…sounds like a great side hustle to me.

  3. Jack,

    You most definitely do NOT suck! I do think your analysis is correct, that those who disagree with the analysis you provide are probably moving elsewhere. We do very much live in a society where people tend toward confirmation bias, and I will admit that it seems to me that you have been intensely critical of the left since the election. I feel that criticism is fully justified, but that might be my conservative bias speaking, as well.

    This next musing is somewhat off-topic, but is inspired by how it seems so many people put such emphasis on feelings.

    Does anyone else feel that we have a society that over-indulges in the feeling, intuition personality type to the detriment of critical thinking? As I learn more and more about different personality profiles (Myers-Briggs, DiSC, etc) the more I wonder just how stuck one is in a particular profile, or whether we can deliberately shape our profiles to a certain degree. I’m a pretty solid ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs, and thus I naturally desire to base decisions on hard evidence. But someone who is, for example, ENFP will think that hard evidence is secondary to what his gut tells him, and moreover, he’ll probably be more outgoing in sharing with others what his gut is telling him. So can the ENFP’s influence others to be similarly minded, to follow their feelings and intuition and not worry about what the concrete facts say? (And can people be further led to mistrust facts through phrases like “alternative facts”?) On the flip side, can an ENFP be brought to a natural appreciation of facts and logic through proper education, or is an ENFP only going to appreciate facts and logic through a process of self-denial?

    In other words, are people who predominantly rely on feelings and intuition always going to be that way, or can they be brought around to a stronger reliance on facts, evidence, and logic? If we’re arguing with someone who relies on feelings and intuition, are we better off using feelings and intuition in our arguments, because using facts and evidence will not reach them and perhaps even put them off? I know on the flip side, I’m instantly inclined to dismiss someone’s argument if their primary premises are their feelings and intuition, and that might actually be selling them short.


    • As someone who is fairly well versed in the Myers-Briggs and Keirsey theory of temprament differences and typed as an INTJ (Rational), I would say that from my experiences there is some basis for your speculation. I haven’t met too many conservative ENFPs and to try to argue with them on the basis of facts is pretty much fruitless (especially the females!).

    • Ryan, this article (now behind the pay wall) gives a historical analysis of the phenomenon you’re describing:

      I’d take your theory even a little further. I think the angry left is populated by people who consider themselves disenfranchised and discriminated against by a majority. They feel hurt and are lashing out. So yes, I think it is an entirely emotional, irrational response.

      • I read another article (I can’t find) recently that spoke of today’s emphasis upon people using their identity to shut down conversation and discredit ideas. Such as, “I’m Hispanic, so therefore…” Or, “You’re white, so therefore…” This stops conversation and the exchange of ideas dead in their tracks. And isn’t very helpful for policy discussions.

      • “I think the angry left is populated by people who consider themselves disenfranchised and discriminated against by a majority.”

        Yup. That was my primary reason in the past for being a liberal activist, because I felt life was inherently unfair to me because of being a minority in a few areas. Of course public school & a social studies major w/ women’s studies minor didn’t help. One day I finally got tired of hearing about how downtrodden my life must be. That my primary worth was based on my victimization & oppression because of someone else’s privileges & my barriers. In these circles I came to see hypocrisy & worse, the prejudice against minorities who didn’t go along with the narratives big lefty funders always pushed. Dissenters & those in such groups who defy the victim narrative are cast out, left to hang out in rural Georgia with Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemima, & Trump. You learn quickly being a minority no longer matters if you go against group think.

        Eventually I learned life is unfair to everyone even if their proverbial grass is greener. And to address Mr. Harkins, back when I was an activist, I took that quiz & it was said I was ENFP.

        For shits & giggles I took it a few years ago & it said I was ENTJ. Now I’m more conservative, so who knows. Personally I don’t put much into personality profiling but it’s fun sometimes.

      • Other Bill: I think the angry left is populated by people who consider themselves disenfranchised and discriminated against by a majority. They feel hurt and are lashing out. So yes, I think it is an entirely emotional, irrational response.

        Not my vision, and I’m living in the middle of a mess of them. It’s an unhappy and exceedingly frustrating some-of-my-best-friends… situation. They believe themselves a majority who were cheated out of their President by an antiquated electoral system run by good ol’ boys. They live in a perpetual echo chamber peopled by caricatures who (especially the women: after all, theirs was the largest day-long protest in US history!) believe they are both superior to and smarter than the average bear, and victims of a world of roughneck moron enemies. They are armed with self-righteous anger, most of it borrowed from smaller groups who have (sometimes legitimate) excuses for feeling discriminated against and otherwise put-upon. They wear stickers that state their preferred pronouns (she/her; he/him), cannot carry on a one-on-one conversation without criticizing each other’s correctitude, act in groups and appear ignorant of independent thought.

        Emotional and irrational, you betcha.

        Also deaf, blind and half-crazed with it. I am not exaggerating; this is everyday behavior. Some cannot go two sentences without villifying Trump or anything related [Jack has said all that needs to be said on this – how he keeps from repeating himself is a miracle of vocabulary] . Banning and censoring have become competitive sports; they don’t have to shut down a cinema for trying to screen “I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ babies,” — the theater owners didn’t bother ordering it this year. The most talked-about movies are Ai Weiwei’s “Human Flow,” and “Dolores” (Cesar Chavez’ counterpart, Senora Huerta, labor organizing farm workers); other pop films are “Gook,” “Mrs. B., A Korean Woman,” Al Gore’s latest fictional anti-science, “Wonder Woman,” and a 4th go-round of “Fruitvale Station” cops-kill-black man story. Then there’s the Sing-Along “Moana” for the kids. The jury is out on “The Force” doc on Oakland police. The indoctrination of their children is intense, and not just in questioning authority (that old, mild, most intelligent ’60s slogan) but openly “resisting” and despising it: police, teachers, (other kids’) parents. Also Presidents.

        No problem differentiating tourists from locals anymore … the natives are downright scary. The summer of hate is winding down; the anniversary of Our Great Loss is looming. Over-dramatizing? I wish. I have lost two of my favorite volunteer jobs (something to do with wearing a sticker that said “my pronouns: it, that and that’s it” ??) before realizing that no one I knew possessed a shred of good humor any longer. Nor realized they had dumped it in the garbage about 18 months ago. Tant pis

    • My summary opinion of personality evaluations are that they only give a very very general picture of a person’s more noticeable personality traits in an extremely isolated context.

      I think our personalities are far more varied and far more versatile and far more context-driven than that. One clue that modern personality quizzes have a degree of hokum involved is that they almost ALL derive from the ancient greek concept of “humor imbalances”, where the greeks divided personalities (or at least transient MOODS), into 4 sectors based ultimately on “humors”, which in turn were based ultimately on the 4 elements of classical science.

      A modern “science” that hasn’t broken out of that 4 part paradigm, is, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed from the outset. It may get alot of generalities right, but I think it cuts out ALOT of important nuance when it typecasts people.

      I’ve seen people’s personalities change given very different contexts, in one instance an “introvert” may be decided “extroverted”, and vice versa, I’ve seen “rational” people become “emotional” when the subject changes. So I tend to agree with your hypothesis that personality types are NOT set in stone, whether or not there seems to be a prevailing personality type for each individual.

      • You’re absolutely right about personality type and temprament theory is best used to predict tendencies to behave and think in a certain way. Personality is much more complex than that and should take into account birth order and life experiences that greatly effect how a human being behaves. However, I would not quickly dismiss type and temprament theory as hokum. You might want to take a look at Dr. David Keirsey’s website and see what you think.

    • Most major debates end up drawing on people’s feelings and gut reactions on both sides, that’s why people get so caught up in it even if it started rational. I think applying the Brigg’s Meyers to specific and contentious topics doesn’t work. These tests are analysis of trends in general behavior not predictors or guarantees.

      • Well, to an extent, I am talking about trends. Namely, I feel there’s a trend in place in which feelings and intuition are not just an aspect of matters, but the only important aspect. I’m starting to run into too many people who talk only in terms of emotions, who neither care about facts nor thinks facts should have any bearing on decision making. My use of the personality profiles was to try to put into words a thought I was having, and I realize that perhaps I could have just used the following one-liner:

        Given that there are people whose predominant means of interacting and succeeding is through feeling and intuition, when encountering such people and unable to sway them with facts and logic, should their illogical notions be given a pass under the Julie Principle?

  4. The idea of John Wayne demanding to use the ladies room boggles the mind. Not so much with Richard Simmons. Btw, I noticed we now have only family restrooms in one of the malls I occasionally visit. I’m trying to figure out exactly what that means.

    • “Btw, I noticed we now have only family restrooms in one of the malls I occasionally visit. I’m trying to figure out exactly what that means.”

      This is 100% tangent from Jack’s post, but I’ve been telling everyone I know, so I might as well share it here:

      A few weeks ago I was someplace where the normal men’s and women’s rooms had both been converted to “all gender” by placing a new sign over the old designations, and I learned that I do actually have opinions about what bathrooms people should use! Specifically: I do not want to use a bathroom with visible urinals, and I need someplace with a mirror where the only people allowed are ones I can adjust my bra in front of (which would be people who also wear bras, or would be expected to at some point.)

      So I’m now firmly against all this family restroom, all gender, unisex business. At the very least offer a urinals/bras divide.

  5. #2. The attack about the shoes is petty and character revealing.

    #3. This police officers should not have been fired for being sarcastic to a drunken DUI driver! It is absolutely clear that his statement was sarcasm and shouldn’t be taken any other way! This is yet another example of actual FEAR of the increasing power social justice warriors.

    Two weeks ago I said that “social justice warriors are going to exploit this new found social modification power”; this is a perfect example of how social modification due to the increased publicized power of social justice warriors is taking hold in our society. There is historical evidence across the globe of how this kind of fear has been used to completely transforms society.

    Social justice warriors are being empowered by these fearful reactions to their increasing social power; this is going to get much, much worse!

    #4 Journalist and media outlets all over the United States are going to take note of this ruling and feel empowered. I think we are going to see nearly immediate increase in this kind of accusatory rhetoric from nearly all media sources.

    • Oops, the officer wasn’t fired he retired. He shouldn’t have felt that kind of pressure and now they want to take his pension because of a few sarcastic words that some can take out of context?

      We’re doomed I tell you, doomed!

      • Got popcorn and a way to heat it in your bunker?

        Don’t forget toothpicks, too: one version of hell is all the popcorn you ever want but no way to pick the detritus out of your teeth.

  6. Keosian rules that being falsely called transgender does not engender “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy,” and therefore cannot be defamation.

    What the judge rules is actually odder than that. He acknowledges that transphobia is widespread and that in fact transgenders are widely subjected to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy. But he says, “While, as a practical matter, the characteristic may be held in contempt by a portion of the population, the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.”

    So the court acknowledges that anyone falsely accused of being transgender will be subjected to widespread hatred, etc, which sounds like defamation per se, and hence that Simmons actually was damaged. But the judge says that it’s important for appearances’ sake that we pretend that Simmons wasn’t damaged, that in a right-thinking world he wouldn’t be damaged, and we must pretend that the world does think right, because pretending will make it so.

    I remember the same argument being made in law school about accusations of homosexuality being defamation per se. The same people would argue on the one hand that gays were everywhere subjected to hatred and on the other hand that the law should absolutely prohibit people who were falsely accused of being gay from recovering any damages for the hatred to which they had been subjected.

    • That’s important to flag, and thanks. But the positions are linked. The original reason the calling someone gay was defamation was that there was near unanimous agreement that being gay WAS horrible, and deserved prejudice. Applying that standard, even with significant dissent, trans status does not equal societal shunning, just shunning by individuals. So does being falsely called a Trump supporter. Hence no defamation.

    • I suppose right now trans people are actually considered to be superior beings during this phase of their rights campaign. I always felt that all right thinking people needed to think that gays and lesbians were actually superior to heterosexuals during the push for marriage equality. I’m guessing the thinking goes that Simmons can’t be damaged for being alleged to be a superior sort of person.

      • Bullseye. What was previously considered a mental illness is now considered a special state of blessedness, the same way homosexuality went from being a disordered state to a similarly special state and the same way being other than white went from being regrettable to being the only way to be, while being white went from an advantage to now a target for disdain and hate.

  7. “They do not have to destroy him however. Although Abbott retired when the writing was on the wall, the Department reportedly might try to take his pension away.”

    I’ve never understood how this works…. My understandings of pensions is that they are glorified savings accounts with tax shelter purposes: You’ve paid for them, generally as a payroll deduction, and you own them. There might be employer or union contributions that they might try to spitefully claw back, but how does anyone justify taking someone’s pension?

    • Yes, but there’s always a caveat of employment duration (which opens an argument of conditions of departure). If I only work at a place for 4 years, and I’ve paid into the pension for those 4 years, but I leave to work elsewhere…I don’t get to withdraw the 4 years of input.

      Which is why 401k’s came about, I think?

      Either way, retirement plans of all colors have their quirks, and pros and cons. They all hinge on how a person risks ability to be paid in the future since ALL retirement plans have angles of failure.

      But that’s a digression…I think any job-tied retirement plan (such as a pension), always has some level of duration and nature of separation caveats attached to them…

      A guy whose “earned” his pension, but was fired the year he qualified for it because it was discovered he’d been embezzling company funds for years…?

      In this specific episode (this police officer), I don’t think a reasonable argument can be made to withhold his pension even while reasonable arguments can be made for firing him, insisting he retire AND for keeping him on the force.

      • This must be an Americanism. In Canada upon termination, even termination with cause, long before the age of retirement, ex-employees are given the option to either transfer their pension dollars to another plan within a certain amount of time or be issued their pension in a lump sum. And if they’re issued that lump sum, there’s scary tax implications.

        • No, I think it’s that way here too. I’m just not entirely certain. But I seem to think, from some source, somewhere, that pensions (maybe in their original form, which might be where I got the notion) were a type of loyalty ‘reward’ for workers in the old economy who stuck with the company for the full career, and therefore an incentive to stay.

            • Money’s a funny thing. Like electricity and radio waves, no one has satisfactorily explained it to me how it works. And because we never seem to fully understand how it works, it’s hard making an ethical distinction on somethings.

              If Employer X can afford to offer employee Y a re-imbursement package, that over 20 years would be worth $1,000,000, but in parallel universes, it’s broken up in several ways:

              Plan A: Only offer the employee, 45,000 per year, and that at the end of 20 years, he’ll receive a $100,000 “loyalty bonus” + a percentage of whatever the $100,000 has earned on investments.

              Plan B: Offer the employee 50,000 per year, but tell the employee he may with-hold $5,000 per year to receive when he terminates his employment.

              In either case, the Employer retains cash that it *could* afford to give immediately to the Employee at each paycheck, but chooses not to, because the Employer feels he can use that immediate savings to invest in other opportunities that might allow for a *greater* payout at the end of the 20 years, and the Employee has comfortably valued his own worth at the reduced salary anyway.


              1) If employee quits early, he’s clearly not entitled to ANY of the money with-held from Plan A…but would rightfully be entitled to the total contributed amount in Plan B.

              2) IF, in plan B, the employee terminates earlier than the 20 year goal…yes the employee has a right to receive the contribution UP to the point of leaving…

              Does the employee in that situation, have any right to interest accrued on investments made off the with-held contributions?

              • (at the end of the day, it’s literally ALL the exact same money, across all the scenarios…the only difference is how the two independent actors (Employee and Employer) define what value the money represents.

      • As an aside, 401(k)s became popular because they were less expensive and a more certain level of expense than the traditional pension plans.

        Generally speaking, when you are enrolled in a pension plan, there is a period of time served after which you are vested in the plan and will qualify for something when you leave the company (which may not be much if you leave early and may not be available until your retirement age). If you leave before you are vested, you may not be entitled to any benefits from the plan. This assumes that you are not contributing anything — your contributions, if any, would always be returned to you at some point.

        North Carolina recently passed a law denying civil service pensions to state employees who were convicted of a crime whilst in service (I think probably a felony but don’t remember all the details). So someone convicted of, say, embezzlement while working for the state would also forfeit their pension after they get out of prison. Other states mileage may vary, as they say.

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