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Department
Ethics
Course
ETHC 3P82
Professor
Thomas Mulligan
Semester
Winter

Description
Monday, March 1 - Rights and Duties of Employees The Employer-Employee Relationship and the Right to Know by Anita Superson (p. 26) Key Concepts: • HAZARD, RISK • INFORMED CONSENT implies that all parties know what they are getting into and do it out of own free will o KNOWLEDGE + FREE CHOICE o FAIR CONTRACTS • FIDUCIARY AND NON-FIDUCIARY RELATIONSHIPS • AUTONOMY • NOTE: Use of examples, legal cases, authorities Text: 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 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 efficiently 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) KEY CONCEPTS 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?) QUESTION Can you find one or more main thesis statements? STRUCTURE 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 conflict with their responsibilities towards shareholders even if it comes at an expense of profit AS LONG AS they are honest with the shareholders • Risk: o Maitland: Stockholders have the burden of the highest risk in a corporation as they’re money is at stake o Orlando: Workers, too, carry a risk – maybe their risk is even greater considering that their family and livelihood depends on their job • Contracts: o Maitland: all parties are in the contract by their down will and free choice and can leave the contract when they wish to o Orlando: does not see it that easily – the parties involved are not in equal bargaining positions as they all carry different risks: employee’s livelihood depends on the job; loosing job means unemployment, moving to another area, etc.; whereas stockholders hold portfolio of very diverse stocks and are not that dependant on only one company – their life is not as directly affected • Utilitarian argument: Utilitarianism says that an act that maximizes total utility is morally right, i.e. if the benefits for the whole outweight the harm of a few, it is okay; Orlando does not agree with this – there is more factoring into well-being than only financial considerations Section III. Proposes arguments against downsizing • THESIS: Downsizing is only morally justifiable in order to SAFE THE COMPANY, but not in order to INCREASE PROFIT • P. 35: Fairness: John Rawls says that someone only deserves reward/punishment for something he/she has actually done; downsizing punishes the employees although they may not be responsible (external effects like economic situation, managerial misdecisions)  UNFAIR • P. 36: Upper management are not affected by harm • Shareholders, too, have done nothing in order to deserve a punishment (e.g. decrease of their shareholder value or even loss of all their assets) Section IV: Solution • Downsizing is justifiable to prevent the company’s collapse – BUT: last resort Wednesday, March 3 - Two Separate Topics: (1) Whistleblowing, (2) Business Ethics in International Business SOME PARADOXES OF WHISTLEBLOWING by Michael Davis (p. 403) KEY CONCEPTS: • CHARACTERISTICS OF WHISTLEBLOWING p. 403: Whistleblowing always involves revealing information that would not ordinarily be revealed (e.g. information about a company or the government); purp
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