Contemporary Moral Problems Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Moral Problems

Dow is not the most ethical company to begin with, given their production and distribution of toxic chemicals. The products Dow produces can destroy the environment and potentially threatens the health of their employees as well as their consumers. However, as Greg Miller points out in his article, "Fired by Big Brother: Fearing Sexual Harassment Lawsuits, Dow Chemical Co. In Michigan Fired Workers who Forwarded Lewd E-Mail. Could Your Company Do the Same?" Dow might be guilty of violating further ethical codes, those that pertain to employee relations and basic human rights. A number of Dow employees, a disproportionate number of which were union members, were fired without warning due to their forwarding lewd e-mails. The terminated employees suffered considerable hardships as a result of being fired. Some of them had worked at the company for decades and lost their pensions along with their dignity; many could barely make ends meet after being fired and were forced to declare bankruptcy. The terminated employees suffered also from emotional losses including embarrassment and shame when they had to tell their families. "Some workers were so distraught that the union had to round up volunteers to drive them home," (Miller 3)

Miller's story therefore raises several ethical issues regarding company conduct and the obligations and ethical responsibilities corporations have toward their employees. The article touches upon the ethical content of the e-mails themselves and relates their offensiveness to unethical behavior such as sexual harassment. However, forwarding lewd e-mails does not constitute sexual harassment. While the e-mails were distasteful, their dissemination in itself does not represent a gross violation of any ethical codes except those that relate to employees using company resources for personal reasons. Therefore, Dow's punishment was heavy-handed and out of proportion to the offense that was committed. As such, the decision of Dow Chemicals to fire the employees was unethical, especially as the firing caused direct harm to the employees.

However, Dow's actions were not wholly unethical. There was no overt manipulation, deception, or lying. Dow did extensively research employee e-mails, including executives in the search. The company was also acting out of reasonable self-interest in their decision to fire the employees. As Miller notes, "responding aggressively to harassment complaints is the only way for a company to protect itself from costly liability claims," (Miller 4). Dow's decision to terminate the employees is understandable given the intensity of laws regarding sexual harassment and also reflects their commitment to protecting employees from sexual misconduct. Moreover, Miller points out that "Dow proceeded cautiously, even consulting experts on ethics," (Miller 5). Dow executives "felt they had to take a moral stand,"…

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