Business Ethics

27 Jun


Joan, an employee of Great American Market, was warned about her excessive absenteeism several times, both verbally and in writing. The written warning included notice that “further violations will result in disciplinary actions,” including suspension or discharge.

A short time after the written warning was issued, Joan called work to say she was not going to be in because her babysitter had called in sick and she had to stay home and care for her young child. Joan’s supervisor, Sylvia, told her that she had already exceeded the allowed number of absences and warned that if she did not report to work, she could be suspended. When Joan did not report for her shift, Sylvia suspended her for fifteen days.

In a subsequent hearing, Joan argued that it was not her fault that the babysitter had canceled, and protested that she had no other choice but to stay home. Sylvia pointed out that Joan had not made a good faith effort to find an alternate babysitter, nor had she tried to swap shifts with a co-worker. Furthermore, Sylvia said that the lack of a babysitter was not a justifiable excuse for being absent.


  1. Was the suspension fair?
  2. Did Joan act responsibly?
  3. Should she be fired?



You own a cement company, and deal with most the local contractors for cement, sand, etc. You have a reputation of high quality products, and for good customer service with your customers. Your foreman has just run the standard quality control tests you have performed regularly on your products. When the test results are ready, you discover that the new batch of product is 9% less durable than your usual material. It is still well above all industry standards and meets all building codes and requirements for the purposes for which it is intended, but it is, nevertheless, not up to your usual standards. Throwing it away would cost your company many thousands of dollars.

You decide to sell the cement anyway.


  • Should you tell your customers?
  • Should you discount the price?
  • Should you tell your employees, so they will be knowledgeable with the customers?
  • Would you use this cement on foundations for your own house?



Fred, a 17-year employee with Sam’s Sauna, was fired for poor job performance and poor attendance, after accruing five disciplinary penalties within a 12-month period under the company’s progressive disciplinary policy. A week later, Fred told his former supervisor that he had a substance abuse problem.

Although there was no employee assistance program in place and the company had not been aware of Fred’s condition, their personnel director assisted Fred in obtaining treatment by allowing him to continue receiving insurance benefits and approved his unemployment insurance claim.

Fred subsequently requested reinstatement, maintaining that he had been rehabilitated since his discharge and was fully capable of being a productive employee. He pointed to a letter written by his treatment counselor, which said that his prognosis for leading a “clean, sober lifestyle” was a big incentive for him. Fred pleaded for another chance, arguing that his past problems resulted from drug addiction and that Sam’s Saunas should have recognized and provided treatment for the problem.

Sam’s Saunas countered that Fred should have notified his supervisor of his drug problem, and that everything possible had been done to help him receive treatment. Moreover, the company stressed that the employee had been fired for poor performance and absenteeism. Use of the progressive discipline policy had been necessary because the employee had committed a string of offenses over the course of a year, including careless workmanship, distracting others, wasting time, and disregarding safety rules.


  • Should Fred be reinstated?
  • Was the company fair to Fred in helping him receive treatment?
  • Did the personnel director behave ethically toward Fred?
  • Did he act ethically for his company?
  • Would it be fair to other employees to reinstate Fred?



In January of last year, the S.S. Vulgass, an oil tanker of the Big Dirty Oil Company ran around in the area just north of Vancouver, spilling millions of gallons of crude into the waters and onto the beaches of British Columbia and southern Alaska. The damage to the beaches and wildlife and consequently to the tourist industry, the ecology and the quality of life of the local residents is incalculable, but in any case will require many millions of dollars for even the most minimal clean-up.

The ship struck a small atoll, well-marked on the navigational maps, but it was a dark night and the boat was well off course. On further investigation, it was discovered that the Captain of the Vulgass, Mr. Slosh, had been drinking heavily. Leaving the navigation of the ship to his first mate, Mr. Mudd, he retired to his cabin, to “sleep it off.” Mr. Mudd had never taken charge of the ship before, and it is now clear that he misread the maps, misjudged the waters, maintained a speed that was inappropriate and the accident occurred. Subsequent inquiries showed that Captain Slosh had been arrested on two drunk driving convictions within months of the accident. The Vulgass itself, a double-hulled tanker, was long due for renovation and, it was suggested, would not have cracked up if the hull had been trebly reinforced, as some current tankers were.

R. U. Rich, the Chief Executive Officer of Big Dirty Oil declared the accident a “tragedy” and offered two million dollars to aid in the clean up. The Premier of British Columbia was outraged. Environmental groups began a consumer campaign against Big Dirty Oil, urging customers to cut up and send in their Big Dirty Oil credit cards in protest. In a meeting to the shareholders just last month, CEO Rich proudly announced the largest quarterly profit in the history of the Big Dirty Oil Company. He dismissed the protests as “the outpourings of Greenies and other fanatics” and assured the shareholders that his obligation was, and would always be, to assure the highest profits possible in the turmoil of today’s market.


  • The question is, who is responsible? Who is responsible for the tragedy & Why?
  • Against whom should criminal charges be leveled?
  • What should be done, if anything, to punish the corporation itself?
  • What about the CEO?

In your opinion, what should have been the decision of CEO?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *