Contrary to the English common law of employment, formulated by William Blackstone, which defines employment as a contractual relationship that bounds the parties to a continuing relationship, the employment law in the United States of America allows the “At Will Rights” contract, giving each party the right to walk away anytime without cause and obligation to provide reasonable justification. Most workers in the USA are employed under this contract. While this type of contract allows the worker to move on to any better position at any time, the employer who is usually more powerful can also terminate an employee at any time, for an arbitrary reason and without cause. It, therefore, can be subject to unethical abuses on both sides, but often with disastrous consequences to the employee who is terminated unexpectedly. This was the case between Emma, the employer, and Tom the employee.
When it comes to the matter of employment, philosophers differ on the ethics governing each type of contract. In fact, there is a strong argument on the ethics of firing in the business literature. There are two main camps: (1) those who think that employment should be “at will”, allowing employers to terminate an employee at any time without reasonable justification, and (2) those who think that employment termination must be based on “just cause”, often due to poor performance or business downturn. I discuss how a Utilitarian and a Kantian will view the “At Will Rights”-based employment.
Guided by the principle of maximization of the “utility”, defined here as the profit or happiness for most stakeholders, a Utilitarian will argue that the employer has made the right decision, one that takes into account the overall status of the entire company. This decision may allow the company to fully take a new direction based on the current landscape of competition, be well positioned to face challenges and ultimately remains profitable for the sake of all its employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. This is much more important than caring for one employee and risk losing the entire company. Unfortunately, this decision is at the expense of Tom, who sacrificed his life for the company, and depends on his employment to care for his family. From a social responsibility, aspect, one may question whether there aren’t alternative decisions that will keep the company going into its new direction while catering to the needs to its most loyal employees by offering, for example, additional training, task shifting.
A Kantian’s moral duty-based ethics will vigorously condemn such decision and treatment of Tom as a mean to achieve an end. Kant’s ethics argues for a duty to the moral law and defines the only good as the goodwill. According to him, an action is considered good only if it obeys the universalization principle that requires that it applies to everyone without a contradiction occurs. In the case of Tom, it is clear that the termination of his employment did not apply to everyone without any consequences to the company. The manager herself would not tolerate such situation if she was at Tom’s place. The sudden termination of employment of long-term and loyal employee, without regard to his family responsibilities, although following an “At Will Right” contract, is ethically wrong and non-empathetic. This is indeed reinforced by the fact that alternatives feasible solutions exist and could have been sought after, even if in the short term they may be a bit costly. These include professional reorientation and development, training, shifting to other areas where Tom would be most needed, or offering Tom, if nothing else, a compensation package that would defray or mitigate the sudden financial hardship due to loss of employment.
In summary, I believe that, while the “At Will Rights” employment contract allows both parties to look for better opportunities any time without constraints of having to provide reasonable justification, employers often have the upper hand and can subject employees to abuses such as the case of Tom.
Businesses should never have to disregard the life of their employees, especially their committed and loyal ones, even if only one person, for their own sake. HR manager should be trained to consider hiring and firing policy, not only from the company’s wellbeing perspective but also the health and well-being of their employees. A wise combination of utilitarian and Kantian approaches are necessary to ensure that the company is kept profitable and the employees’ benefits prioritized.
From the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act to the progress that has been achieved by the courts as they have decided cases interpreting constitutional and civil rights in the context of access to opportunities in sport, the black community’ perception, has not changed. It identifies differences in the perception that in order to succeed, they need to be as good, as smart, as dependable, and as talented possible. This perception is reflected in everything from literature to television, to everyday conversation. As sad as it is, this reality awakened the conscience of the great Dan Rooney’s values of ethical leadership characteristics of justice/fairness, that left its fingerprints on the affirmative action in the sport of employment equity as Rooney rule. This is have given in principle support to the introduction of a new measure of positive action measures aimed at promoting diversity in sports. However, ethical considerations can and often should go beyond minimum levels of barrier removal required by the law.
Based on the notions of social justice and ethically fair treatment of individuals, some Dan Rooney has called for sports organizations to proactively manage diversity simply because it is the right thing to do. In this perspectives, Utilitarianism offers a relatively straightforward method for deciding the morally right course of action for any particular situation we may find ourselves in. that has given to utilitarian the obligation to raise and teach the companionate/justice aspect of ourselves and begin to engage in both divergent and convergent thinking as a leader as a growing body of literature has focused on how sports organizations might manage diversity in the workforce.
Best known and as most influential moral theories, Utilitarian on the various principals of distributive justice has quickly conquered into the NFL benchmark. Even that made a difference at the head coaching level, it also needs to expand the position coaches and coordinators in the diversity levels to accurately reflect the diversity of participants in the sports. Typically, responses to the rising demand for accommodating increasing diversity come from two utilitarian perspectives: a moral imperative or a business justification that holds every entity’s interests should be considered equally when making the decision, and this includes those of another minority group since they also are capable of suffering.
If the result is that more black people got fairer representation in sports, then there could be some good argument for the implementation of the classical utilitarian / consequentialist ethics. The consequences justify the means – the amount of happiness or benefit, in the end, outweighs the pain in getting there. This is why Panthers head coach, Ron Rivera, was originally brought in with the goal of satisfying the Rooney Rule. In the end, the Upper management was so impressed that they hired him since he has done a great job.
In a business context, this approach might rely on a statistical analysis of probable outcomes, a classic costs/benefits assessment, and/or a consideration of the marginal utility of a consequence for various stakeholders in the group.