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Ethics and Human Resources

Business Ethics: Chapter 9
by

Heath Hesse

on 19 December 2013

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Transcript of Ethics and Human Resources

Ethics and Human Resources
After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
Explain various ethical issues relevant to human resources officers.


Identify ethical obligations that employers have to their employees.
Human Resources
Discrimination
Diversity
Affirmative Action
Reverse Discrimination
Favoritism
Nepotism
Cronyism
Sexual Harassment
Quid Pro Quo
Hostile Environment
Obligation
Benefit
Collective Bargaining
Outsourcing
Boycott
What do you think?
You Decide
Read the following statements about ethics in the workplace. Decide whether you think each action is right or wrong; then explain your reasoning.
1.) A company administrator gives a promotion to a relative or close friend even though another employee is more qualified.
2.) A supervisor allows employees to tell off-color jokes and hang suggestive posters in the break room even though some female employees have reported being offended.
3.) A supervisor implies that an employee has a better chance at a promotion if the employee will go out on a date with him.
4.) The manager of Department G oftens yells at and threatens employees to make them more productive. As a result, Department G has the highest productivity in the company.
5.) An insurance company has an unwritten policy of hiring pretty young women to be front desk receptionists so they will be the first company representatives that potential customers meet.
Personal Reflection
Have you ever been discriminated against, known someone who has been discriminated against, or witnessed an act of discrimination?
Ethical Issues in Human Resources
Human resources: department responsible for personnel recruitment, hiring, and management.
Discrimination
Favoritism
Sexual Harassment
Drug/Alcohol Abuse
Discrimination: illegal treatment of a person or group based on prejudice.
Federal laws protect people from acts of discrimination based on race, gender, age, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, marital status, or disabilities
In the workplace, laws against discrimination are supposed to guarantee everyone equal opportunities in hiring, pay, and promotions. However, that goal of real and full equality has proven difficult to achieve.
Most successful business leaders have come to understand the intrinsic value of diversity.
Diversity: the goal of recruiting, including, and incorporating people of all types and backgrounds throughout the company.
The dual goals of increasing diversity and avoiding discrimination has led to laws requiring most businesses to practice affirmative action.
Affirmative Action: to take active measures to ensure equal opportunity in hiring and advancement decisions.
The original intent of federal affirmative action laws was to force companies that had practiced discrimination in the past to take additional steps to recruit minority applicants for hiring positions and consider minority employees for advancement.
However, some critics have claimed that, over time, the practices have been extended to the point of creating reverse discimination.
Reverse Discrimination: practice of giving jobs and promotions to less qualified minority applicants at the expense of better qualified members of majority groups.
Favoritism: partiality being shown toward someone.
It is commonly expressed in a couple of ways.
Nepotism: the practice of granting workplace favoritism to one's relatives
Cronyism: practice of showing workplace favoritism toward one's friends.
What is wrong with these practices? Why shouldn't people in positions of power be allowed to give jobs and promotions to whomever they choose? After all, the saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
Nepotism and cronyism create many workplace problems.

First, supervising a relative or close friend can result in conflict of interest.

Second, these practices tend to lower overall employee morale.
Other employees see that the hardest-working, most capable, and best-qualified people are not the ones who get the best jobs and promotions. That can lead the other employees to question the integrity of their managers and leaders--and even discourage employees from doing their best. After all, why try harder if the rewards are based on something besides job performance?
Finally, acts of favoritism can even have negative consequences for the people to whom the favoritism was shown....Why?
Workplaces function best when everyone believes that hard work and talent are keys to advancement. Employee morale and job satisfaction are high when everyone believes that the playing field is level and that all employees have fair and equal opportunities.
Sexual Harassment: unwelcome physical or verbal behavior directed at employees because of their gender.
2 specific categories of sexual harassment have been identified and prohibited by the courts
Quid Pro Quo
Hostile Environment
Quid Pro Quo: refers to situations in which sexual demands are directly tied to a person keeping his/her job or receiving a promotion or another job benefit.
A classic example is a supervisor demanding sexual favors from a subordinate, either by threatening the subordinate's job or by promising a raise or promotion in return.
Hostile Environment: refers to situations where supervisors or coworkers use embarrassment, humiliation, or fear to create a negative climate that interferes with the ability of others to perform their jobs.
A classic example is where a company is found liable because male workers posted sexually oriented pictures around the workplace, which intimidated the women employees.
In fact, the hostile environment does not even have to be sexual in nature. Some companies have been fined for allowing supervisors to berate, bully, and humiliate employees.
While the government does investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual harassment, lawsuits in civil courts have had a huge effect on harassment in the workplace. Companies have paid millions of dollars in settlements and damages to victims of both forms of harassment. That has led other companies to invest in increased employee training in order to prevent future occurrences and limit corporate liability.
In one recent study of top U.S. corporations, company leaders were asked to list the most persistent and troublesome ethical problems that their businesses faced. The list included many issues that were not surprising, but the single most bothersome issue according to those surveyed was drug and alcohol abuse by employees.
Substance abuse could be singled out as the single worse offense, because:

1.) is a leading cause of lost production due to employee sick time.

2.) Drug/alcohol abuse are leading causes of accidents and injuries.

3.) it has a dramatic effect on employee turnover.

4.) substance abuse drives up the costs of insurance
In fact, some companies now have their workers drug-tested in order to obtain discounts on health and life insurance rates.
65% of workplace accidents are caused by substance abuse.
Employees abusing drugs record 16X more work absences than "clean" employees.
12.3 million adults are users of illicit drugs, and 9.4 million (77%) of those people work.
An estimated 6.5% of full-time and 8.6% of part-time workers are illicit drug users.
It is estimated that 6.2% of adults working full time are heavy drinkers.
More than 60% of adults know someone who has reported for work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What do you think?
Personal Reflection
If you were a corporate owner or executive, what would your policy be on employee drug testing? What would your policy be toward employees with substance abuse problems? Explain your reasons.
So far, the emphasis in this chapter has been on employee-related ethical issues. But there is more to managing human resources than simply dealing with those types of problems. Business administrators and supervisors have legal and ethical obligations to all of their employees. Let's find out what those obligations are....
Employer Obligations
Obligation: is a duty that one person has to another person.
An obligation is very different from an employee benefit.
Benefit: is an inducement above and beyond a wage or salary that employers offer to employees.
Businesses compete with one another for quality employees, and a generous package of benefits can help companies attract the best workers. BUT businesses do not necessarily owe their employees benefits. Benefits are extras. Very small businesses may not be able to afford them.
Obligations are not extras or perks. They represent legal and/or ethical requirements. All employees are entitled to the fullfillment of these obligations. Companies that do not meet their obligations have done something legally or ethically wrong. What do employers owe to all of their employees? What do all employees have a right to expect from their employers.
Safe Workplace
One clear employer obligation is to maintain a safe working environment. Workers should be protected from conditions that could cause injury, illness, or death. On the other hand, some occupations are inherently dangerous.
Fair & Equitable Pay
Employers owe their employees fair pay for the work done, but determining specifically what constitutes fair pay is not easy. Fortunately for workers, employers compete for quality employees, and that competition helps to promote higher wages and salaries.
Collective Bargaining: negotiations between organized workers and employers to pressure companies to pay higher wages and offer more and better employee benefits.
Outsourcing: the practice of contracting work to people and companies in other countries.
Equal Opportunity
A cornerstone of contemporary business is the idea that all people should have equal opportunities to get jobs and promotions. However, people are still discriminated against in hiring and promotion decisions because of their skin color, nation of origin, gender, religious beliefs, or age or because they have a disability.
As expensive as the legal costs can be, the damage done to public relations can be even more expensive. Consumers do not tend to support businesses that they believe are discriminatory and unfair. Consumer groups and other special interest groups can organize boycotts.
Boycott: group agreement to not buy products or conduct business with certain companies to protest perceived injustices.
Respect
One worker summed up the importance of respect in the workplace by explaining how he felt about his job. "My employer treats me with all the dignity and respect of a shovel. They bought me as cheaply as they could; they use me up every day to the breaking point; and when I complain, they remind me that they can replace me with another shovel if they want to."
What do you think now?
Personal Reflection
If you have a job or had one in the past, explain how well (or how poorly) your employer fulfilled its obligations to you as an employee.


Safe Workplace Fair & Equitable Pay Equal Opportunity Respect
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
Julie works in the human resources department of a family-owned business that manufactures specialty parts for bicycles. Business has been good lately, and the company has been looking to hire more assembly line employees. Julie's close friend Bandu has been out of work and looking for a job. Julie suggests that Bandu complete an online employment application with her company. "I know the owner and can put in a good word for you," she tell him...
When Bandu's application comes through, Julie checks it over and sends it to the owner for final approval. The next day it is returned to her marked "Rejected." When Julie asks why, the owner seems uneasy. "What I'm about to tell you is confidential," he warns her. "This is a small company. We seem to be more comfortable and productive when we don't have too much diversity. That's been our policy in the past, and I don't see any point in changing things now."
Although he has lived in America for several years, Bandu was born in India. Julie knows that he is talented, smart, and hard-working. She enjoys her job and makes good money, but she is angry at the owner for discriminating against Bandu and is embarrassed that she has to tell her friend that he will not be hired. As Julie looks around the company, it dawns on her that there aren't many employees who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group. She wonders whether she should quit her job in protest, report this fact to someone, or keep her mouth shut and try to help Bandu find a different job....
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