Ethical principles

Case Study

Paul O’Doherty is the ethics officer for a medium-sized petroleum company. The company has a comprehensive ethics program that is his responsibility. The program includes a code of business conduct that outlines the values that guide behaviour, identifies conflicts of interest, specifes appropriate and inappropriate practices, and provides an approach to reporting violations or suspected wrongdoing. One aspect of the reporting system is an employee Hotline: employees can contribute in written form, such as by email, or orally, by telephone or in person. Participants must identify themselves and all communications go directly to Paul. He reports directly to the corporate secretary and legal counsel; the identity of the employee is not disclosed and confidentiality is maintained except in rare cases where there is legal action


Paul is a member of the Ethics Practitioners’ Association of Canada (EPAC). According to EPAC, the skills of an ethics officer According to EPAC, the skills of an ethics officer include “facilitating constructive dialogue on ethics-related issues, analyzing ethics issues and problems, and providing coherent, realistic solutions to ethical issues. “31 His job has been rewarding and he has enabled the company to keep abreast of developments in the ethics area. The company has received awards for its ethics program and is recognized as a leader in corporate ethics.


Recently, Paul has been experiencing a problem with the Hotline component of the ethics program. An employee is making numerous complaints to the Hotline, almost weekly.’ The complaints cover many aspects of the employee” s department: untair treatment oy a supervisor, stealing of office supplies by coworkers, management favouritism in assigning holidays, reporting an employee who is moonlighting, and quality of service given to customers. All of the complaints have been investigated according to the procedures outlined in the corporation’s reporting guidelines. The investigations have been costly, in terms of both money and time. None of the complaints has been determined to be justified and many lack credibility: Paul has reluctantly concluded that the employee is a whiner or troublemaker, but he cannot state this to others. It appears that the employee’s reporting practices have been damaging to department morale.


The challenge now is to decide whether something should be done about the situation.



. What stakeholders are involved in this situation?

2. What actions should be taken to address this situation?

3. What are the ethical implications of each action?

4. What ethical principle or principles should be followed in resolving this situation?


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