Case Study: Is It Ethical Tracking Employees?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 In Blog Educational Politics

Employee Rights vs Business Industry Protections

As with the newer technologies of today, we can see some of our rights as employers and even citizens being eroded by those who have the power over us. Is it right for the company to make as much money as possible and try to find avenues to gain revenue? You bet it is, but sometimes we hit a snag within the ethics that surrounding business practices.(Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell,2013)

Social responsibility rests not only on the individual employee but also on the company itself. With corporate citizenship making more of a presence, we as a business ethics society must interpret how we must act accordingly. As read out of the text,“ these companies have superior financial performance compared to the indexes of other publicly traded firms.” (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell,2013)

If It Isn’t Illegal, Why Be Concerned?

Answering question one from our textbook is a fine line between what is socially acceptable vs. what is legal or illegal in this case. With the National Security Agency (NSA) scandals rocking the nation this past couple of years, we as citizens in the United States are more likely to want more privacy. In this case, what an employee does on their free time using the company car can be fought both ways. Why was this employee using the company car for leisure activities or personal matters? In defense, why does the company lend/give out vehicles if they disapprove of these actions?

A company can’t make exceptions for one employee over the other if they expect an ethical culture. In my readings of the textbook is that to have a moral climate for all employees, everyone has to be held to the same standards or else those ethical rules will be violated without regard for the company. An example of how this culture can be destroyed would be on page 2 of the textbook (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell,2013). The company doesn’t punish those who illegally write in the tips, but everyone in the group does it; therefore, it would be wrong to punish one employee over the other for doing what is widespread (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell,2013).

Getting back to the central question, Megan should be concerned because her job is on the line. She was given specific instructions to review the files and suggest appropriate action, which means the ethical violations that occurred are up to her discretion as a human resources officer. Megan should also be concerned about being employable if society catches wind of what is going on. As summarized at the end of Chapter 2 in our Text, “Business ethics, issues, and conflicts revolve around relationships.” If Megan was to disobey her orders, she could too end up on the end of an ethics violation probe in retaliation.

Resolving The Current Dilemma

From the textbook in Chapter 3, it states, “There are few legal protections for employee’s right to privacy”(Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell,2013). Doing a bit of research and coming up short, I believe that there isn’t much legally Megan can do. She can, however, try to change the ethical culture at the company by recommending that all employees are treated the same way regardless of standing. The 4th amendment may apply while you are a federal employee, but it doesn’t if you are on a company’s private property(Smith, D. V., & Burg, J.).

While it is difficult for an employee of a company to expect individual rights, it is also up to the company to make sure that time is not lost, productivity is up, and those trade secrets aren’t forgotten. Even if it is unethical, Megan doesn’t have much footing to try to report them to the authorities on business ethics because she doesn’t have much ground to stand on. Many of the business ethics she is running into is the internal culture that can be changed by her making a stand or explaining why it is that this particular issue will get them in trouble down the line. It would be a public relations nightmare if a news source such as the Huffington Post, Vox or any of the other left-leaning sources got their hands on a story this juicy for workers’ rights.

I am all for workers’ rights, I am a democratic-socialist but with a capitalistic infrastructure to keep it going. Without both the worker and the employer teaming up together to solve these issues, it will pit those parties against one another. How we beat the great depression was more protections for the workers in the form of safety, benefits and fair wages? Also; the more protections for the businesses in the form of criminal background checks, competing with others for the best resources, and protections for their product/practices.

Who Has A Stake?

I believe as a company those who work for the company, those who are invested in the company and those who are directly in business with the company has a stake in the company. Some stakeholders range from the janitor all the way to the CEO. The vending machine operator for the break room all the way to the stock market if they are a publicly traded organization.

One example of stakeholder is the fact that I am a customer at Wells Fargo. Anyone not living under a rock has been turned off by Wells Fargo’s scandal of opening accounts secretly without the customers knowing(Egan,2016). I am suspicious about the time they had me get a college credit card, I haven’t used the credit card, and they told me,” You don’t have to use it.” Now that I know they make money off of decisions like this, it is a learning experience for me to not relatively trust everything that the bank says. Do I change banks? If I do that I will have to change my direct deposit for my work, school, and other ventures. Also, I would have to spend time looking for another bank, and in the middle of a semester, it would be crazy! I am thinking of switching banks but, what people don’t realize is it take time, effort and even though we have beautiful banks in Elko, Wells Fargo seems to be the only major bank with banks in 49 states. (Note: Oklahoma is the single state without one, they do have an ATM in Oklahoma City)

In conclusion, I do believe that business ethics has been getting better over the past decade. It is the line of thinking that we will never really perfect the ethics in business because we will never satisfy the public hunger for change. Business ethics now vs. pre-1960s is a great example; we have much more opportunities as consumers to be able to voice our frustrations. Sometimes we need legislation such as; Enron, Saving & Loans and Cars safety. Other times we need the popular opinion to get stuff done in business ethics; Voluntary recall of Samsung one note, ads featuring gays/lesbians more, equal pay for women, more women in higher positions, and even the Tylenol seal caps after the poison scares.

I do believe that there are few legal things we can do about surveillance legally, but as a society, the voice of the people may be louder than the company. If we stop buying those apps that treat their employees like prisoners we can see a change. Is it ethically wrong though to do it? It might not be illegal now, but in a decade I predict that we will see privacy laws passed due to an overbearing amount of companies using the technology. Even at my job at the Bureau of Land Management, they track our emails and activities, which I am fine with because we answer to the taxpayers.


Egan, Matt. (2016, Sept. 8). 5,300 Wells Fargo employees fired over 2 million phony accounts. Retrieved from Http://money. Cnn. Com/2016/09/08/investing/Wells-Fargo-created- phony-accounts-bank-fees/.

Ferrell, O., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2013). Business ethics: Ethical decision making and cases. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Smith, D. V., & Burg, J. (2012, November/December). What Are the Limits of Employee Privacy? Retrieved September 20, 2016, from gp_solo/2012/november_december2012privacyandconfidentiality/ what_are_limits_employee_privacy.html

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