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• Analyze and apply the concepts of freedom versus responsibility and ethical decision making.
• Analyze and evaluate laws that protect against discrimination in the workplace.
• Analyze and evaluate the employment-at-will doctrine and exceptions, as well as the protections afforded whistleblowers.
• Explore the legal and ethical issues surrounding employee and consumer privacy.
• Use technology and information resources to research issues in law, ethics, and corporate governance.
• Write clearly and concisely about law, ethics, and corporate governance using proper writing mechanics.?
Employment At Will Doctrine:
In the United States, except in Montana, all employment relationships are considered to be at-will (Autor, 2014). This means that an employer, in the course of employment is eligible to terminate an employee at any time for unspecified reasons provided that the reasons are not illegal ones. Such termination is not likely to bring any legal obligation on the employees. At the same time, the employees can also leave their job without any notice and they would not face any legal consequences for the same (Goldman, Corrada & Goldman, 2011). The employee at will doctrine also provides that the employers can change the terms of the employment at any time without giving any notice to the employers. This provides that the employers can change the wages structure, can terminate the employment benefits or can even reduce paid time offs. If any employee is hired at will, the law court does not extent any positive attitude towards the employees for any losses accrued by them in the course of their dismissal (Gould, 1982).
There are certain exceptions to the doctrine (Covey, 2000). These are pointed as under:
Public policy exception: this provides that if the firing of an employee by the employer, violates the public policy doctrine of the state, then, such a termination cannot be made (Hill, 1987).
Implied contract exceptions: under this exception, an employee cannot be fired by an employer when there is an implied contract between the two (Shepard, Olsen & Duston, 1987).
Statutory exceptions: there are three statutory exceptions to the doctrine (Kruger, 1986). They are being discussed as follows:
On refusal to commit illegal acts: an employee cannot be fired if he refuses to carry out an illegal act;
On leave on account of family or medical issues: if an employee takes a leave for addressing his/her family or medical issues, he may not be terminated;
In retaliation cases: this implies that if an employee protects an action taken by the employee like in cases of testifying wrongful terminations, or wrongful discriminations, they cannot be opposed and terminated.
Understanding John’s position:
John posted a rant on his Facebook page in which he criticized the company’s most important customer.
In this matter, there are rights in the hands of the company to fire John only if it can be proved that the information that John furnished is actually wrong and has defamed the company. the company can fire John at will if there are other employees who agree to the comments made b y him. This is likely to bring down the number of customers and would hamper the sales of the company. There exists no employment at will doctrine that can stop John from being fired.
The actions that can be taken in this regard to limit the liability are that firstly, the matter should be discussed with the HR and it should be found out that how is this going to affect the company and what will be the liability of the company as John was an employee of the company while he did such a thing. There has to be a discussion as to why such comments were made by John and he has to be made understood all the effects of the same. The theory supporting this is Free Market Ethics because the stakeholders are likely to undergo a loss in the market because of this slander.
Understanding Bill’s position:
Bill has been using his company-issued BlackBerry to run his own business on the side.
The firing of Bill is dependent on the company’s policy for using technology for personal uses. If there is any specific expression in the company’s statement policy that the technology of the company in the form of computers or tablets or cell phones or any other electronic gadget cannot be utilized for personal uses, then Bill can definitely be fired. On the other hand if there is no such expression in the handbook of the company, then, Bill cannot be fired. There does not exist any employment-at will doctrine for the employees to use this scenario.
This situation should immediately draw the attention of the management towards amending the handbook of the company and clearly stating in it that no technology of the company can be used by the employees for their personal benefits. The theories relevant here can be the Free Market Ethics and the Virtue Ethics.
Understanding Anna’s position:
Anna’s boss refused to sign her leave request for jury duty and now wants to fire her for being absent without permission.
Anna cannot be fired in this instance as she requested leave for attending her jury duty. The assistance will be given to Anna by the employee- at- will doctrine.
The absence protocol in matters of jury duty should be clearly state in the policy of the company. It should also be clearly provided that if adherence is not shown to public policy or the state policy when the employees have a jury duty, the same shall be condoned. The assisting theories in this matter would be the Virtue Ethics or the Deontology Ethics Theory.
We shall look into the matter of Edward B. v M& H Aluminium Sales here.
The main issue in the matter was that Edward was hired by M& H Aluminium and the handbook of the company stated that the first 90 days would be a probationary period. It also specified about the employment-at-will policy. Post the probationary period, Edward was evaluated favorably. After two months, Edward was dismissed from his position for cause only.
The outcome was given in favor of Edward. The company was asked by the Court to pay Edward an amount of $ 740,000. This was based on the projected loss undergone by Edward along with the loss of benefits that he underwent since the day he was terminated till his age of retirement. This damage was awarded in association of all the economic losses that Edward went through and as a remedy for the breach of contract on the part of the company.
Autor, D. (2014). Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.281418
Covey, A. (2000). The workplace law advisor. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Pub.
Goldman, A., Corrada, R., & Goldman, A. (2011). Labour law in the USA. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International.
Gould, W. (1982). A primer on American labor law. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Hill, A. (1987). "Wrongful discharge" and the derogation of the at-will employment doctrine. Philadelphia: Industrial Research Unit, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Kruger, M. (1986). Employee handbooks and the employment at will doctrine. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Small Business Assistance Office.
Shepard, I., Olsen, H., & Duston, R. (1987). Employment at will. Washington, D.C.: College and University Personnel Association.