Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of human conduct. Business ethics deals specifically with the values of individuals and society in the business world. With this said we will analyze and find a solution to a hypothetical ethics case:
Sharon is an employee that works in an office with five other women. All six aresupervised by Martin, a corporate vice president. Sharon sees that one of the women is being sexually harassed by Martin. Sharon is thinking about reporting the offensive conduct. What categories of ethical behavior might be impacted by this dilemma? What is the best course of action Sharon should take? If you are Martin’s supervisor and this matter was brought to your attention, what steps wouldyou take to correct the problem?
Human beings are social creatures and it’s only natural that relationships form and evolve when they are working together for forty hours a week. However, there is a fine line between ethical business relationships and sexual harassment. The latter has become a rampant problem in the business world.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionestablishes that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In order to identify if someone is being sexually harassed is important to consider these circumstances:
• The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
• The harasser can be the victim's supervisor,an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
• The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
• Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
• The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
The success of a company depends on itsbusiness ethics. Martin’s behavior jeopardized a key component of a successful company: the circle of trust. This circle of trust consists of shareholders that invest their money to obtain earnings in return; employees that provide their labor; and the community that benefits from the business opportunities in the form of employments and taxes. Employees must be able to trust management not toabuse their power, and management must trust employees to work diligently. When an ethical breach occurs, as Martin’s sexual harassment, the trust is broken. This has a direct impact on employees, which indirectly impacts customers and investors. Employees will begin to feel discriminated and the quality and efficiency of their work will drop. Customers will then stop purchasing and investors will seetheir profits decline.
In order to prevent ethical breaches, modern society and most business have created certain codes of ethics. This case of sexual harassment breaches three categories: fairness, abuse of power, and conflict of interest.
Employees have the right to be treated fairly. This seems like a common sense rule, but employees are often mistreated because they are inan inferior business position than their supervisors. Therefore, supervisors often misuse that power. When someone is being sexually harassed, he or she is being treated unfairly, especially when the harasser holds a position of authority over the employee being harassed.
Martin was in a position of power. Martin’s power is authorized by the company he works for. Any action Martin takesreflects on the company because he’s using their authority. Since the company authorizes Martin’s power, employees must trust that Martin uses his power in the best interest of the company and not in the best interest of Martin. Making sexual advances is definitely not in the best interest of the company. In this case, Martin used his power to serve his own interests.
Supervisors are supposed...