Ethical Treatment of Employees

When working in an organization, both employee and employer have certain rights and responsibilities towards each other. Employees are expected to work in a manner that they do not pose any threat to their co-workers. Similarly, employers have the responsibility to provide safe and secure working environment to the employees, ensure training and regulate potentially harmful substances and dangerous situations at the workplace. Disputes and conflicts of opinion are an inevitable part of professional life and at times, these conflicts can not only harm the reputation of a person but can also result in the loss of job. Disputes arise among employers and employees and certain laws allow the employer to demote, transfer or fire an employee without giving a prior notice or explanation. The regulation which allows the employer to use this right is known as employment at will (EAW). In simple terms, at-will employment means that the employee is not protected by any union and is working just with his own choice. EAW also give some rights to the employee. The employee can leave the organization without any prior notice or explanation. So in all both parties are not in a commitment to work for each othe for a particular period of time. Now the question of concern is whether it is ethical to demote, transfer or fire an employee without any cause, justification or explanation. Is it justifiable to give the right to employer to exercise his will when deciding an employees future in organization Is it a breach of contract or is their any law which protects the employers and employees from each other Or is it justifiable that the employee leaves the organization when the company needs him the most The paper will analyze the arguments EAW is ethical or not, however, it is important to explain the concepts of employment at-will (EAW) and due process, both of which will be greatly used in the paper. In the conclusion I will greatly support the EAW as it provides the flexibility to employees and employers and ensures efficiency in the organization.

Employment at will (EAW) is an American law which defines the employer-employee relation in terms of free choice i.e. it gives the right to an employee to quit the job at anytime he wants without providing any reason of quitting to his employer ( TheFreeDictionary). Similarly, it gives the right to an employer to hire, transfer, promote, demote or fire any employee without providing any justification, explanation or reason as the employee is not protected by any union, or any other collective bargain. Both cases are legally acceptable provided that the contract between the employee and employer do not specify a time period. In case an employee leaves a job in the middle of the year, the employer can not sue the person for quitting the job without prior notice. Similarly, if an employer fire a person, that person can not claim in the court against his employer as both the cases are legally justified according to employment at will.

In simple terms, due process refers to legal proceedings that are carried in such a way that no individual is treated unfairly. In terms of employment, this gives the right to appeal to an employee who thinks he has been treated unfairly by his employer. In the public sector of U.S., all employees have the right to due process i.e. they cannot be fired without any valid explanation by the employer. This protects the employees from being treated unfairly. However 60 of all employees in the private sector are at-will employees. So the concern is that whether it is justified to give right of due process to employees and is it fair for employees to be at-will

Employment conditions have always been a debatable issue. Employees demand for job security and safe working environment whereas employers want efficiency and high worker productivity. EAW is an important debate these days as the number of claims by the at-will employees is increasing. It is important to evaluate various arguments against EAW and in defense of EAW provided by the articles Employment at Will and Due Process by Werhane and Jadin, and In Defense of the Contract at Will by Epstein. The first article presents arguments in favor of due process and the later one is in defense of EAW. It is important to analyze them and give an unbiased conclusion in support of EAW or due process.

Many people claim that employment at will is unjust as employers have an undue advantage to fire any on without giving an appropriate justification. They present the following arguments

Werhane claims that treating an employee at will is similar to treating an employee as an employers robot or property which can be disposed off or fired at any time. Unlike things, a human being is a rational being and understands and gives reasons. Similarly, he expects the employer to give a reason for being fired. On the other hand Epstein highlights the claim of people who say that EAW gives an equal right to employer and employee as both can exercise their will when ever they want. However, it ignores the fact that an employers right to hire or fire an employee is exercised at the start of the job and it is balanced by the employees right to accept or reject a job. After that the employer can not exercise the right to fire an employee without giving any explanation. A rational human being is always curious to know and it is his right to know the reason of dismissal. It is extremely unfair that employees get fired which is also a threat to employees job security. Werhane argues that EAW takes advantage of the vulnerable employees who are in need of a job. By using this right, employers tend to treat employees unfairly and also EAW does not give the right to claim against the employer as the law is in favor of the employer. He claims that due process is much more justified in this case as it provides job security to the employees.

In response to the above mentioned arguments, here are numerous arguments which are given in favor of EAW. People claim it is based on the principle of freedom of choice and provides an equal opportunity to employer and employee to end the contract of employment .It also rules out the use of force and fraud and provides an opportunity to the employee to avail a better job opportunity which arises while he is currently employed somewhere. The arguments in favor of employment at will are as follows

EAW gives the right to the employer to hire or fire any employee. This right of the employer is justified with the employees right to accept or reject a job. However, in future, EAW gives the right to an employee to quit the job and find any better job without giving any explanation to the organization. Now this right of the employee is balanced out by the employers right to fire any employee without appropriate justification. So it is fair on part of both parties as each one of them possess balancing rights and none of the parties have an undue advantage on each other.

We talk about the freedom of speech, freedom of selection of marriage partner and freedom in every aspect of life. Epstein being a liberationist supports the argument.  In case of employment, EAW provides freedom of choice to both employee and employer. An employee is free to quit the job whenever he feels like, or whenever he finds a better job opportunity. Similarly, it gives the right to the employer to hire, demote or fire any employee who he does not like or who commits an organizational crime. People claim that it is unfair if an employer fires an employee but if we consider the reverse side of it, is it fair that an employee leaves an organization just to gain personal benefit No it is not. This claim is also supported by Werhane in his article Employment at Will and Due Process.So people who argue that employment at will is unfair for employees, should not forget the fact that an equal opportunity is given to the employees. Secondly people also claim that government intervention is bad in all matters so why do they argue in favor of government intervention in the form of due process. Isnt this intervention by the government sabotaging an individuals right to a better opportunity If it is protecting employee from being unfairly dismissed, it is also refraining them from using their right to quit employment.

In large organizations, there is a growing concern of employee misconduct in the form of theft and unauthorized use of firms equipments. Epstein claims that one way to curtail this problem is employment at will. This provides an opportunity to the management to fire employees who are involved in such misconduct. Monitoring employee behavior is easy as co-workers and internal auditors can help in this regard. If employees are fired because of their unfair practices, this will also act as a deterrent for other employees so that they make sure they abide by the organizational policies and procedures. Epstein also claims that on part of employee, EAW provides a way to prevent or minimize reputation losses i.e. if an employee is guilty of an organizational crime, there is a schema attached to him and co-workers do not like to interact with him. But if that same employee gets fired for committing this crime, he will get a new job and he might not be considered as a thief in his new organization. This way, he can prevent reputational loss and minimize the damage to his own self esteem.

Two important arguments presented in Epsteins article are that EAW is risk diversifier for employees and is a way to reduce inefficiency in the organization. From an employees perspective, EAW is a means of diversifying risk as employees are free to avail job opportunities other than the existing one. This way, employees can diversify their risk of not being employed in case they get fired from their existing job. EAW provides a way to reduce administrative cost and also reduces organizational inefficiencies. This provides an advantage to the employer and the organization as the inefficient employees can be fired. If the organization continues to have inefficient employees, there will huge costs associated with this so EAW provides a way to minimize organizational monetary and non-monetary costs.

I personally think that EAW is not unfair to the employees as it provides them an opportunity to quit the job and the right is similar to the employers right to fire any employee. If the employee does not possess the right to claim against the employers decision, it is not unfair because the employer too does not possess the right to forcefully retain an employee if he wants to quit. People claim that EAW does not provide job security to employees but similarly it does not provide for the losses by an organization when an employee quits his job. An organization invests a lot of monetary and non-monetary resources in its employees and if an employee quits, the company incurs huge losses. If no support is provided for the losses of the company, then it is not unfair if no job security is provided for the employees. It is proven fact that government intervention promotes inefficiency. Command economies provide us an excellent example of government failure and they prove this failure by moving towards a private economy. Similarly, if government intervention in employment is practiced, this will lead to inefficiency in organizations as due process provides protection to the employees. If inefficient and unproductive employees are kept employed in the organization, this will add on to the organizational costs and will force a company towards inefficiency. So in all, EAW is not unfair to employees as it provides equal opportunities and rights to both the employer and employee. If people claim, it is unfair then it is unfair for both employers and employees.


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