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Business ethics

Organizational influence in
private lives
 Privacy is a widely acknowledged
fundamental right
 Corporate behavior and policies often
threaten privacy, especially in the case
of employees
 Release of personal information about

The importance of privacy
 Individuals’ right to privacy has three
 (1) to control certain information about
 (2) to shelter aspects of their lives from
public scrutiny
 (3) to make personal decisions
 The burden is on the organization to
establish the legitimacy of encroaching
on the personal sphere of the individual

Legitimate and Illegitimate
 A firm has a legitimate interest in
employee behavior that significantly
influences work performance
 The above applies equally to off-the-
job conduct
 Numerous instances where
employees were fired and then
reinstated by an arbitrator or the court
 Can company image be affected by
off-the-job conduct?
Interference with personal
decisions of employees
 Involvement in civic activities:
donations, volunteer programs,
community service organizations,
charities. Pros and cons; possible
infringements on the right to privacy
 Wellness programs aimed at helping
employees live longer and improve
their health and productivity

Obtaining information and
informed consent
 Companies do gather highly personal
information about employees
 Informed consent is important here; it
implies deliberation and free choice.
 Deliberation: employees should be
provided with all significant facts
concerning the information-gathering
procedure and understand its
 Free choice entails that the decision to
participate must be voluntary and
Obtained information through
 Polygraph tests run the risk of generating
false positive and their use is legally
restricted (last resort)
 Personality tests may have questionable
psychological premises; is there a limited
number of “personality types”?
 Monitoring employees on the job; notifying
is not consent
 Drug testing may not be reliable or relevant
to the job or necessary
 It is important to address abuse of employee
monitoring, privacy violations and the way to
treat those who fail the tests
Working Conditions
Health and Safety
 5,000 US workers killed annually on the job
 Assumption of risk assumes informed
 Employees have the right to refuse
dangerous work
 Employers should inform workers of any
life-threatening hazards
 Do accidents just happen?
 Experts believe that accidents are caused
by factors that are under the control of the
company, whose moral obligation is not to
expose workers to needless risk
Working Conditions
New Health Challenges
 Musculoskeletal disorders
 Shift work
 Fatigue
 Job stress
 Occupational Safety and Health
Administration Act (OSHA, 1970): “to
ensure so far as possible every working
man and woman in the nation safe and
healthful working conditions”
 Accusations about “lack of guts and
political will”
Working Conditions
Management Styles
 Nothing affects work environment
more than the quality and style of
 Poor relationship with immediate
supervisor and office politics are the
two most common reasons employees
give for leaving a job
 Trend to a more personal, empathetic
and collaborative style

Working Conditions
Day Care and Maternity Leave
 160 countries guarantee paid
maternity leave; in the US only unpaid
leave is mandated in the US
 What about paternity leave?
 On-site day care is offered by some
 Child-care and flexible, family oriented
policies can be cost effective, reducing
absenteeism, boosting morale and
loyalty to the firm, enhancing
productivity and attracting new recruits
Three underlying moral
 Women have a right to compete on an
equal terrain with men
 The development of our potential
capacities is a moral ideal, perhaps
even a human right
 The possibility of permitting
individuals, couples, and families as
much autonomy as possible, given
other social goals

Redesigning work
 It is business’s duty to:
 (a) confront the fact of widespread job
dissatisfaction and
 (b) consider ways of improving the
quality of work life
Dissatisfaction on the job
 In the US, only 50% of workers say they
are satisfied with their job, and only 14%
are “very satisfied”
 Workers respond well to attention and
 Membership in a respected team and
company enhances job satisfaction
 Other factors: sense of accomplishment,
responsibility, recognition, self-
development, self-expression
Improving Work Life
 Granting workers new responsibilities
and respect can benefit the entire
organization. The example of one vs. 34
inspectors in the car industry
 Sense of achievement is extremely
important for workers’ well-being
 Worker participation helps increase
 Worker-friendly companies tend to
outperform traditional command-and-
control employers