Acme Inc. Company



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Acme Inc. Company

In our case study, Mary, who works at Acme Inc., is faced by a difficult situation where her boss threatens to fire her if she does what she thinks is ethical. There has been a toxic waste spill in the company and yet her boss is even destroying the important documents that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested. Mary is uncomfortable with the situation as it is unethical but she also fears for her job.  In this essay, the concepts of employment at will, whistle- blowing and ethical frameworks are discussed.

Employment at will

Employment at will refers to the hiring where the employer has the freedom to quit or strike unless there is a signed contract while the employer can fire an employee for any legal reason. The employer can also terminate an employee for no reason as long as there is no legal liability (Gely, Cheramie & Chandler, 2016). Employment at will is at times spelled out during job application and hiring. In a case where there are no laws and regulations governing the employment at will, the employers can treat their employees in a manner that they deem fit. The protection can be based on age, sex, religion, color, disability or even race. There are three exceptions to the employment at will doctrine. They include; prevention of any terminations that violate any State public policy, preventing termination after establishment of an implied contract of employment. The last exception is if the minority of a state has in any case read a ‘covenant of good faith’ and also fair dealing into the particular employment relationship. If the issue is not among the complaints outlined, one may consult a private attorney. In our case scenario, Mary’s employer is threatening to fire her if she reports him. However, according to the employment at will doctrine, the employer has no right to terminate her. This is because he is firing her under illegal reasons, that is, for polluting the environment and also destroying the key documents that were requested by Environmental Protection Agency. Employment at will has some advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include; the employee has greater flexibility in this kind of arrangement. For example, Mary can decide to quit her job at any time. Secondly, it is a favorable arrangement for small- scale business owners as it helps them reduce the risk of employing poorly skilled employees, that is, the freedom to terminate. The employment at will arrangements helps employees to be promoted according to merit. The disadvantages include; job insecurity as an employer can terminate an employee for no reason. Secondly, the laws of employment at will are dynamic hence unfavorable to employees. The third limit is that the employees cannot modify the working environment. The employers may like the arrangement of employment at will as they do not have to explain when terminating an employee. This helps them avoid potential lawsuits from their employees. Employment at will can also be very disadvantageous to the employer as they spend a lot time and financial resources training their employees (Gely, Cheramie &Chandler, 2016). Flexibility of the employees to quit at any time may therefore mean that a company will have to waste a lot of resources. It can also be disadvantageous to them as a former employee may prefer working for a competitor of the company. This employee may sell the other company’s strategies hence a lesser competitive advantage.

Whistle blowing

Whistle blowing involves exposing any activities that are regarded to as illegal or ethical within an organization. Whistleblowing can cause conflicts between personal and also organizational spheres. Whistle blowing may be in the public interest and therefore whistle blowers are protected by the law against being treated unfairly or losing their job (Miceli, Near & Dworkin, 2008). However, they can be in a dilemma of whether to be loyal to their boss or whether to be committed to their moral obligations. It is ethical for one to raise an issue if the complaint is based on sound argument. In our case scenario, no matter how much Mary want to remain loyal to her boss, she is committed to her moral obligation which is protecting the environment. This is why she confronts her boss who in turn threatens to fire her is she whistle blows. Whistle blowers are protected if they raise issues such as; criminal offences, if health and safety of someone is in danger, environmental risk, if a company is breaking the law, injustice and also covering of unethical behavior. However, there are complaints that do not count as whistle blowing. They include; personal grievances such as discrimination unless it is in the interest of the general public. Our case scenario, serves as a good example where Mary is the potential whistle blower. If Mary choses to whistle blow the toxic waste spill, she will definitely be protected by the law as it is an environmental risk. Mary can also report her boss for destroying the key documents that were requested by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is because Mary’s boss is putting people’s lives in danger and while at the same time covering for unethical behavior by destroying the documents. Whistle blowing promotes a culture of ethics in an organization. It usually boosts the employees’ morale to rule out any form of misconduct within the organization. It helps to ensure that the workplace is safe and also protects the company’s reputation and profit- making (Miceli, Near & Dworkin, 2008). Whistle blowing can help the employees adhere to the ethics if the organization is in accordance with the code of ethics. However, whistle- blowing is at times disadvantageous as the whistle- blower maybe victimized. Some of the barriers to whistle blowing may include; not trusting the organizational system, an employees may not be willing to be a ‘snitch’, believing that management are of higher standard than others hence their misconduct is not exposed,  the fear of retaliation and finally the fear of alienation from workmates. Some of the ways Mary can raise her issue are; reporting her unethical boss to the proper authorities such as then Environmental Protection Agency, she should maintain her stand by not being part of the unethical behavior, she might testify in a legal proceeding or even report the misconduct to the media. Whistle blowing is well aligned with general, ethics if the whistle blower has the moral intention of protecting the general public interest.

Ethical frameworks

Ethical frameworks basically refer to sets of codes that guide one’s behavior. There is no single definition that has been accepted to define the ethical principles hence the frameworks. The four major ethical frameworks include; right and duties, having a virtuous life, making decisions for oneself and also maximizing positivity. Some of the ethical frameworks that will be discussed below are; ethical perspectives; free market ethics, utilitarianism, deontology and also virtue ethics (ethics of care). An ethical perspective generally refers to a moral view (Lawton & Paez, 2015). Free market ethics may include the assumption of the knowledge of self- interest, the morality of human nature etc. In our case scenario, Mary’s boss is unethical judging on the free market perspective. The boss of Acme Inc., is unethical in that he ignores all the ethics in his own self-interest. Utilitarianism is an ethical perspective that is aligned with economics and also the free market outlook. Utilitarianism often emphasizes on the results rather than the rules. This outlook maybe practiced on the individual level or by corporations. The utilitarianism principle suggests that; an act is only right if the total utilities that are caused by that particular action are greater than any sum of utilities that are produced by any other possible act. This perspective is based on the assumption that the utilities can be measured.  For instance, Mary’s boss does not follow any ethical rule in order to have better results. He does not hand over the documents requested by Environmental Protection Agency and instead destroys them. He also threatens Mary not to say about his unethical behavior. He assumes that the actions will yield better results despite of them being illegal. Deontology is another ethical perspective. Deontology (rules and duty) emphasizes on the moral intentions and the right rules rather than the results. Duties are often defined by rational thoughts while ethical actions rise from the individual’s actions. To determine whether an action is ethical, it has to be universalized first. However for a rule of action to be universal, it has to be depicting consistency and also reversibility. In our case scenario, Mary is determined to report about the environmental pollution and also the unethical behavior by her boss. She has moral intentions for the general public rather than the results. Mary has a duty towards the company and the society as a whole. Her ethical intentions are triggered by her duty and also the rules governing the company. Virtue ethics emphasizes on the role of character and virtues in moral philosophy. Virtue ethics is an approach under normative ethics. Virtue can be character traits such as generosity, honesty etc. They can be habitual actions by an individual. Virtues may involve values, attitude and also perceptions. For instance; Mary perceives her bosses behavior as unethical. Generally, moral virtues include; courage, modesty, friendliness, patience, truthfulness, ambition, magnificence etc. This perspective, does not emphasize on the rules or consequences rather, it focuses on the person who depicts the particular actions (Berges, 2015). Ethics of care is a normative ethical theory that majors on what makes an action right or wrong. Ethics of care normally emphasizes on the importance of response. For instance, Mary responds to her boss’s behavior in an ethical way. She wants to expose the actions of her boss though he threatens to fire her.  Mary is concerned more about the society welfare other than self- interest. The ethics of care seeks to change our view on morality and virtues. The elements of ethics of care include; responsibility, attentiveness, competence and responsiveness. There are three stages of development of then virtue of ethics theories which are; eudaimonism which reserves virtue and the rightness relationship, the agent- based accounts of virtue ethics which are based on the common sense intuitions.


Berges, S. (2015). A Feminist Perspective on Virtue Ethics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Gely, R., Cheramie, R., & Chandler, T. (2016). An Empirical Assessment of the Contract Based Exception to the Employment-At-Will Rule. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 28(1), 63-78. doi:10.1007/s10672-015-9273-6

Lawton, A., & Paez, I. (2015). Developing a Framework for Ethical Leadership. Journal Of Business Ethics, (3), 639. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2244-2

Miceli, M. P., Near, J. P., & Dworkin, T. M. (2008). Whistle-blowing in Organizations. New York: Psychology Press.

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