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ETHC 3P82 Lecture Notes - Cultural Relativism, Supreme Court Of India, American Hospital Association

Course Code
Thomas Mulligan

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Monday, March 1 - Rights and Duties of Employees
The Employer-Employee Relationship and the Right to Know by Anita Superson (p. 26)
Key Concepts:
INFORMED CONSENT implies that all parties know what they are getting into and
do it out of own free will
NOTE: Use of examples, legal cases, authorities
I. Explanation of the problem: a risk/hazard exists in the workplace (esp. in
manufacturing environment) which threatens employee’s safety, maybe even life;
employee is not well informed/aware of this
THESIS: “What needs to be established [...] is an employee’s right to know about
the presence of health and safety hazards in the workplace.”
II. Argument by analogy: The right to be well-informed is established in medicine so
that a patient is able to make informed decisions
Can be backed up by lots of precedents:
a. Canterbury vs. Spence, 1972: every adult has a right to determine what shall be
done with his own body ( legal precedent)
b. American Hospital Association, 1973: Every patient has the right to receive
from his physician information necessary to give informed consent prior to the
start of any procedure and/or treatment”
c. Nuremberg Code (after Nazi Germany): Human should have sufficient
knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved
as to enable him to make and understanding and enlightened decision
she wants to see these rules being implemented in business; however, this is
not the case; example Colgate-Palmolive did not have to reveal all their
chemicals (trade secrets)
III. What weakens the right to know nowadays?
Employer – Employee relationship is NOT based on trust, hence non-fiduciary –
based on money: employer purchases employee’s workforce with money –
expectations cannot go beyond this trade, e.g. not in private life of employee
IV. Bases FOR the right to know – why is it reasonable to assume that employee does
have the right to know?
Morally based on autonomy ( human being is free; can make free and informed
decision without cohersion/force from outside)
a. Right to life and health needs to be more respected in the workplace – if
something affects an employee’s life significantly he/she has the right to know
about it in order to decide autonously whether he/she wants to be exposed to
this hazard
b. Notion of fairness of contracts: employer and employee are in a contract – in
order to autonomously decide whether each party wants to be in that contract
they have to know what they are agreeing to

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c. Milton Friedman’s notion of business’ social responsibility (use resources and
engage in activities in order to increase profit BUT play within the rules of the
game): no deceptive practices withholding information is a deceptive
practive – moreover, unequal information prohibits the free market to function
V. Solution: Employer has to find out about hazards and risks in the workplace,
inform employees so that they can decide for themselves whether they want to be
put into this risky situation; employer has to take all the consequences upon him
(e.g. higher wages, hard time to occupy a position)
THE ETHICS OF CORPORATE DOWNSIZING by John Orlando (Honest Work, 30)
Downsizing - 2 kinds
-to save a company
-to increase company's profit
Private Property - 2 kinds
-for personal use
-for making a profit
Stockholders versus stakeholders (especially employees)
Fiduciary Duty
Harms and Benefits
-degrees (measurable?)
-people affected (many or few? deserving or undeserving?)
Can you find one or more main thesis statements?
Section I. Describes a business ethics issue – ‘Is downsizing justified? If so, when and why?’
The issue: Workers (esp. in a manufacturing environment) tend to say that downsizing is
ethically questionable; downsizing means to close plants/division in order to increase
profit (sometimes in order to save company); business trend of our era
Unemployment leads to problems such as a decline in employee’s earnings and a
widening in the gulf between rich and poor; affects economies of whole communities;
psychological effects, anxiety of unemployment and symptoms like depression, crime,
domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse
Section II. Considers arguments for downsizing and gives rebuttals
P. 31: Property Rights: admits that shareholders have property rights – downsizing can
be justified based on idea of increasing profit and shareholder value BUT property
rights can be broken down – do I use my property privately or for profit?
Financiary Duties: Managers have a fiduciary duty towards owners as they hire them
to run the company in their best interest (i.e. make most profit); Orlando says that
managers taking interests of stakeholders (such as employees) into account does not
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