Future Work Environments with Principal Liability for Employer Being Misconduct of Employees -- Homecare Business
This work will examine a legal or ethical issue or situation that relates to the business, government or society in the area of employment relations and the employer's liability for the misconduct of employees.
The Ethics and Sustainability Discipline
The Ethics and Sustainability Discipline is reported to be of the nature that "deals with organizational and personal values and their expression in decision making and behavior." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) Ethics is reported to be defined being "...rules of conduct or moral principles that guide individual or group behavior. The focus in business ethics is on awareness of organizational values, guidelines and codes, and behaving within those boundaries when faced with dilemmas in business or professional work." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) HR professionals are reported to be in a strategic position that enables them to "ensure that their organizations maintain cultures that demand ethical behavior. Many serve as the primary ethics resource in their organizations and are involved in formulating ethics policies." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) Codes of Ethics have been voluntarily adopted by many organizations and these are of the nature that makes provision of a description of the organization's "general value system, ethical principles and specific ethical rules." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) An organization's code of conduct generally includes the following: (1) Compliance and laws; (2) Confidential and proprietary information; (3) Conflicts of interest; (4) Use of company assets; and (5) Acceptance or providing of gifts, gratuities and entertainment. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)
It is reported that some organizations develop their own ethical standards which may include the following actions: (1) Adopt a written code of ethics and conduct; (2) Provide employees orientation and training with respect to the code; (3) Provide employees with a mechanism (such as a hotline or helpline) to surface concerns about ethics issues and report suspected wrongdoing regarding corporate compliance with procurement laws and regulations; (4) Adopt procedures for voluntary disclosure of violations of federal procurement laws; (5) Participate in best practices forums; and (6) Show the public its commitment to ethical business practices through the transparency of its activities and programs. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)
It is reported that publically traded companies which are subject to the Sarbanes-0Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) are reported to be required to have a code of ethics that has a design that assists in the detection of wrongdoing on the part of employees and is required as well to include a statement that promotes financial integrity and that is applied literally to senior financial officers. The SOX compliant code is required to include the following components: (1) The company's commitment to honest and ethical conduct; (2) The company's commitment to avoidance of conflicts of interest; (3) The company's commitment to full, fair, accurate, timely and understandable financial disclosure in reports and documents; and (4) The company's commitment to compliance with applicable government laws, rules and regulations. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) When companies were asked the question of "what were the most egregious types of ethical misconduct they had witnessed over the past 12 months" HR professionals stated that "abusive or intimidating behavior by employees on the job tops the list." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) It is reported in the report of the Society for Human Resource Management (2011) that corporate ethics has been traditionally an area that is "largely unregulated, but that is changing." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) According to the report there are specific legal issues and exposures that organizations should be particularly concerned with in the development and implementation of their ethics policies and practices. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011, paraphrased) The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) is reported to contain many provisions involving ethics-related practices and policies including those as follows:
(1) Section 301: Requires companies to develop a complaint system and an anti-retaliation statement and to communicate these to employees.
(2) Section 306: Requires companies to notify employees at least 30 days prior to a temporary suspension on stock trading -- a blackout period. Section 306 also requires companies to provide executive officers and directors and the SEC with advance notice of a blackout period, during which officers and directors are prohibited from engaging in transactions involving securities acquired as a result of their employment.
(3) Section 402: Bans personal loans to executive officers or members of the board of directors. HR-administered programs that may run afoul of Section 402 include split-dollar life insurance policies, in which a company pays premiums for a policy insuring the life of an officer or executive; stock option exercises, which are company extensions of credit for broker-assisted, cashless exercises of stock options; and loans to cover home purchases or college tuition.
(4) Section 404: Requires U.S. public companies and their independent auditors to show the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that their financial numbers are accurate and that they have processes in place to ensure that accuracy. Because the single largest line item for most employers is people-related costs, including salary, benefits, incentives, training and the like, HR executives are squarely in the center of the SOX fray. How an organization arrives at its numbers is becoming nearly as important as the accuracy of the numbers
(5) Section 406: Requires companies to have a code of ethics designed to deter wrongdoing, including a statement promoting financial integrity that clearly applies to senior financial officers.
(6) Section 802: Strengthens existing obstruction of justice sanctions against people who destroy, alter or falsify documents with the intent to impede or influence an investigation, even if the SOX charges have been settled. This section applies to both publicly traded and privately owned companies.
(7) Section 806: Protects whistleblowers from retaliation if they speak out against unethical or wrongful actions that could have a negative effect on a company's share value. It applies not only to employees at publicly held companies but also to any organization or individual that works for a publicly held company -- including contractors, subcontractors and agents. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)
It is reported that the federal False Claims Act is of the nature that allows a person possessing knowledge of fraud against the U.S. government to file a lawsuit on the government's behalf against the individual or business that perpetrated that fraud. In the eventuality that the legal action is successful the individual filing the suit receives a percentage of the amount awarded to the government. Other federal laws that pertain to organization in regards to unethical business practices include the following:
(1) The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business.
(2) Mail and wire fraud statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, 1343.
(3) The Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1952, provides for federal prosecution of violations of state commercial bribery statutes.
(4) Federal Sentencing Guidelines, particularly §8.B2.1 regarding the components of an effective compliance and ethics program. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)
Corporate governance is described as the system "that allocates duties and authority among a company's stockholders, board of directors and management." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) The Society for Human Resource Management states that recognized principles serve to assist in guide "the advancement of corporate governance as well as the ability of U.S. public corporations to compete in the global marketplace, create jobs and generate economic growth." (2011) Stakeholders are reported to be taking a closer look at the management of companies in today's business environment that is characterized by a high degree of competitiveness.
The Society for Human Resource Management states that whether companies are "...publicly traded, corporate, nonprofit or privately held, firms increasingly are under the scrutiny of their workforce, shareholders, various stakeholders, the community and the public at large. The trend is reflected in the growing number of rules, mandates and regulations regarding board governance." (2011) Shareholder value can be either quickly built up or torn down by the corporate reputation and this means that "the reputational risk management is another aspect of corporate governance…" (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) This means that today's board of directors are "…seeking more input from HR, which raises the profession's profile but also generates political and other risks." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)
Ethics training is important for the organization and "should be an ongoing process." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011) Ethics training programs serve to assist employees and managers in making their ethical principles clear and enables them in practicing self-discipline when ethical dilemmas arise in the organization. Training as a one-time event is stated to hold "little practical value" however when ethics training occurs in coordination with a code of ethics it enables the organization through the provision of a "guiding framework." (Society for Human Resource Management, 2011)