Research Proposal: Individual Project - Ethics

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Individual Project - Ethics

Ethics Individual Project

The Hon. Justice Potter Stewart once wrote: "There is a big difference between what we have the right to do and what is right." While this may seem immoral to some people, the reality is that American law protects individual liberties first and foremost, which can make it more difficult to legislate ethical behavior. As a result, any person or corporation in a position of power may have the ability to do many things that would be considered unethical by some of the stakeholders. However, corporations and their directors are faced with the fact that they have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders to create profit, which oftentimes conflicts with the needs of other stakeholders in the process. However, this obligation to increase profits is not absolute. For example, Tyson Food Inc. has incorporated its values into its corporate culture, openly stating that it "strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members." (Tyson Food Inc., 2006). By making this clear, Tyson's shareholders are made aware that Tyson is not willing to put profits before values. The Home Depot takes a similar position, making it clear that profit is only one of its three major goals. (Homer TLC, 2006).

For DWI to take a role as a morally and ethically sound company, it is going to have to strive to do more than what the law requires it to do. In addition, DWI must develop a company-wide system of ethics, which will govern the behavior of every person in the company and shape every decision made by the company. To help determine what tenets should be considered in DWI's code of ethics, one must consider the type of moral and ethical dilemmas faced by DWI.

For example, DWI is interested in developing oil reserves in the Middle East, but both the United States and the United Nations have prevented it from doing so in the past. Now that the international environment may permit such development, DWI has to consider whether it is possible to ethically do so. The sheer number of stakeholders involved in such a scenario is mind-blowing.

DWI would have to consider the direct impact of drilling on local residents, and the impact that imports and exports from the Middle East could have on the global economy and global politics. One factor to be considered is that the world is rapidly depleting its fossil resources, which could lead to a world energy crisis. (Heinberg, 2005). Because people in the United States use a disproportionate amount of the world's fossil fuels, exporting more oil for U.S. consumption would violate the idea of justice.

Furthermore, the reality is that the Middle East is an area in turmoil, and that the basic question of ownership of land there has not been resolved. Furthermore, many Middle Eastern countries are considered terroristic or to harbor terrorists, which means that increasing profits to those countries could actually lead to an increase in danger of terrorist attacks. This scenario also demonstrates why an international company could never resort to a divine command theory of morality. When dealing with the Middle East, a corporation can anticipate encountering people from at least three major faith backgrounds: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. History has certainly proven that these three groups are not likely to agree on divine command, making that an inappropriate source for corporate ethical policy in an international multi-cultural environment. Furthermore, because religious upbringing has such an impact on personal perceptions of consciousness and duty, the fact that DWI is a multi-national company means that it would be equally inappropriate for it to base its corporate code of ethics on either personal responsibility or duty.

The fact that the United States is involved in a war in the Middle East brings up another interesting issue for a multi-national company like DWI. DWI has a hotel that is frequented by people of Middle Eastern descent, which has been targeted by domestic terrorists. DWI would be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) and Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964), if it refused to admit customers based on national origin. However, it is important to understand that, especially when the United States is involved in a war in the Middle East, some of DWI's employees are likely to have moral or ethical concerns about serving patrons from that area. This scenario highlight why an individual rights moral theory cannot be the sole basis of a corporate ethical code. On the one hand, it seems ethically clear that an individual should have the right to patronize a business that is open to the public. However, individual rights would also suggest that employees have the right not to serve people if they ethically object to doing so. What is interesting is that if these employees had a religious reason to refuse serving patrons from the Middle East, DWI could be placed in a compromised position if they refused to accommodate the individual employee's religious beliefs. For example, many states protect a pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense birth control pills if doing so conflicts with their personal ethical beliefs, despite the fact that women have a right to take birth control. (Jones, 2004). Clearly, that is a situation where individual rights have come into conflict, and many state legislators have chosen to protect the individual rights of the employee rather than the individual rights of the customer. It may be the case that while DWI cannot refuse service to a customer based on Middle Eastern origin, it also could not force an employee to serve that customer if the employee could raise a legitimate objection to such service.

That above scenario would raise an interesting issue about hiring and firing guidelines. In Crone v. United Parcel Service, No. 01-3595, (8th Cir. Aug. 30, 2002), the Eighth Circuit determined that it was not sexual discrimination for UPS to refuse to promote a woman into a supervisory position because she was not suited for the high level of confrontation that she would encounter in the position. While that court did not find that women were less suited for highly confrontational positions than men, it left an opening suggesting that some types of discrimination may be legally permissible. For example, if the Middle Eastern patrons at DWI's hotel refused service by Jews, would DWI have a legal ability to refuse to promote Jews into management positions because they would then inevitably be in service to Middle Eastern persons? This would probably not be permissible, but the Crone ruling allows for the possibility that DWI could use a pretextual reason for failing to promote Jews into management positions at that hotel without receiving substantial scrutiny from a reviewing court. Unlike the previously discussed moral theories, there is no reason that respect cannot form the basis of a corporate code of conduct. By respecting individuals, DWI could probably come up with a workable solution if faced with this scenario. Assuming that some of their guests are Muslim and follow Islamic dietary guidelines, DWI could offer Halal meal selections, which would comply with those guidelines. Like Kosher food selections, Halal meat requires specific type of butchering by specific people, and keeping non-Muslims out of that process would almost certainly be protected by law, and would not negatively impact the rights of individual employees outside of that very limited context. (See Infanca, 2008).

DWI's international operations also make it likely that DWI exploits workers from countries outside of the United States. For example, the fact that DWI chooses to fly flags of convenience for its cruise ships, rather than registering them in the United States, suggests that DWI is trying to take advantage of the fact that other countries fail to provide the same type of meaningful wage and labor protection to workers as the United States provides. It is legal for ships to fly flags of convenience, and the U.S. generally recognized choice of law provisions in contracts. (U.S. Legal, 2008). However, the question remains: is it ethical for DWI to fly flags of convenience merely to provide customers with a higher level of customer service for a cheaper price, maximing DWI's profits? Almost every single moral theory would suggest that it is unethical for DWI to do so, because it places the wants of a privileged group over the needs of an underprivileged group. However, such an answer may be too simplistic. While foreign cruise ships may not offer the same employment benefits of a U.S.-run ship, they may offer foreign employees better working opportunities than they could receive in their home countries. Prohibiting that practice may be paternalistic, and may actually interfere with a corporate code based on utilitarianism. Instead of prohibiting ships from flying foreign flags, DWI could adhere to fair trade guidelines, which would ensure that all… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Individual Project - Ethics.  (2008, December 22).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/individual-project-ethics/389973

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