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Assessing the relationship between law and ethics

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

“Ethics, also known as moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality-that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc

“Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people.”

Laws are mandatory guidelines while ethics are voluntary guidelines. Man starts learning Ethics from the time of birth while laws, according to the requirement of specific actions to make them standardize. Laws are not always based on ethics. But there is a close relation of Law and Ethics. Ethics involve emotions while law is unemotional in its delivery. It is ethical to not break the law. Ethics guide how well we can obey the law. Sometimes ethics does not lead to Laws.

In international environment all firms should obey to legal and follow ethical rules and regulations. It requires little thought for most of us to know the socially responsible or ethically correct response to questions about breaking the law, destroying the environment, denying someone his or her rights, taking unfair advantage, or behaving in a manner that will become a cause of harm or damage for someone (Yucel, Elibol, & Dagdelen, 2009)

Legal consideration important than ethical

Gaski (1999) suggests managers that it’s ethical guidelines to ‘obey the law’ and ‘act in your self-interest’. Gaski’s argument shows that manager must obey the law for the benefit of the company. In addition, managers may face situations where ethics, the law and self-interest are inconsistent. Consistency of an ethical principle with the law or self-interest does not mean that it is limited only to what the law or self-interest is the same ethical consideration must be there for the benefit of the others. Smith (2000) explained that Gaski may claim that any unethical activity could result in economic loss and is not in the firm’s interest.

Global companies must come to grip with the legal and ethical consideration in which they operate their business. They must need to establish an environment that promotes ethical behavior. Therefore, global organizations need to develop and enforce their own codes of ethics specifically to resolve the issues related to a multicultural and multinational business environment (Mahdavi, 2004).

Trevino et al (1999) explained that there must be consistency between policies and actions as well as dimensions of the organization’s ethical climate such as ethical leadership, fair treatment of employees, and open discussion of ethics that what hurts the most is an ethical culture that emphasizes self-interest and obedience to authority, and the perception that legal compliance programs exist only to protect top management from blame.


For example if we take legal issues in our health. We have legal rights to make our own health care decisions. Poor health can decrease our ability to defend our legal rights. Legal tools for our health matters are healthcare, which have both our willingness to live and our power of attorney for our health care. For our financial and our property matters our legal planning tool is power of attorney and a will. So both of these legal tools help family, friends and legal system so that we can make our personal matters and our property management systems according to our wishes.

legal considerations are more important than our ethical at country level or place we work , we play or anything. Like if I take example of sports coach of any sports.

What should a sports coach have legal responsibilities?

Coach should arrange games and practices in safer environment.

Coach should have proper knowledge and skills of game.

Coach should know what are the safe tools or equipments for the game.

Coach should make short and long term planning’s for team.

Provide warnings to players and parents about risks and injuries that can occur in sports.

Coach is legally responsible for providing emergency aid to players at any time.

These are the legal responsibilities of any coach which are very important not for wining but for game to be played in safe and right manner. If coach is not fulfilling these responsibilities it is danger for team and players are important keys to any country dignity.

Now look at the ethical considerations.

What should a sports coach have ethical responsibilities?

Coach should develop their abilities and skills to make them better future player.

Coach should encourage every individual player to work hard to be part of team.

All players should be encouraged to improve their social, ethical, game skills and ethical behavior.

The final target should be to win, but win through right way rather than by selling characters.

As if we compare these ethical and legal responsibilities of coach we came to know that legal responsibilities are more important which should be fulfilled for game to take place, while ethical are also important but they are not compulsory.

Analysis of Case Studies of Organizations – HRM Perspective

Legal but Unethical Behavior of Organizations

Some activities and beliefs may be legal, but not perceived as ethical at the same time. Same in the way, high speed of car is legally allowed but is not so ethical because high speed may become a cause of accident. On the same way organization also pay attention for ethical considerations which are not legal.

Marriott Corporation maintains very comprehensive ethics standards to which their employees must abide. Several years ago, the orientation program at Marriott Corporate Headquarters included a presentation on what was and was not considered acceptable. Although these rules were part of company policy, there is nothing illegal about any one of these items. However, in the Marriott Corporate culture, each was considered unethical.

Although much of the media are free, they are still subject to legal laws of liable of character, just as for profit programs. Simply because these programs are not earning a profit, doesn’t mean that they are not accountable under the same laws (Schnackengerg, Vega, & Warner, 2008).

Another example is the manufacturing practices of Nike, one of the largest manufacturers of athletics sportswear in the world. Nike produces the majority of its goods in South East Asia. Despite the profits of the Nike organization, its foreign workers are paid substandard wages and work long hours in bad working conditions. In 1996, the entry level wage at one of these factories was $2.20 per day. Labor groups were needed more wages for survival because the other companies were paid more. And as long as the company is meeting the minimum wage standards of the host country, there is nothing illegal about paying low wages. However, most Americans would look at these practices as unethical.

Arjoon (2006) explained that in 1999, Jesse Gelsinger, a healthy 18 year old, died of an experimental drug at the University of Pennsylvania. The principal research scientist had positioned himself to profit if the toxic drug had worked. The Gelsinger family was not fully aware of that conflict of interest and had not been adequately told of all the drug’s dangers. So, these types of activities are legal even in the organizations but these are not ethical (Bodenheimer & Collins, 2001).

Disadvantages of unethical behavior in organizations

Unethical behavior of organization decrease sales of organization.

80%of people in 2003 survey said that they want to buy company’s goods and services by looking at ethics of organization.

Unethical behavior of organization decrease stock prize of organizations.

Almost 75% people said in a survey that their thinking about companies honesty or ethical behavior directly affect their decision about whether to buy company stock or not.

Unethical behavior in organizations decreases productivity of organization.

We all know the relation of unethical behavior in organization with productivity. When employees don’t believe in each others, don’t trust their managers, stress and pressure is high, no encouragement and morale is at low level then we can understand what will be the productivity.

Unethical behavior decreases communication.

It is seen that at workplace where no ethical setup, employees did more misconduct.

Unethical behavior decreases efficiency of employee.

In most of surveys it is observed that employees who have seen that honesty is applied rarely in organizations did more misconduct and their efficiency is decreased due to no encouragement.

Illegal but ethical Behavior of Organizations

On the other hand, there are some behaviors which are illegal, but widely perceived as ethical. One example is taking office supplies from the company supply cabinet for personal use. Legally, this is considered theft, but many people see no moral or ethical problem and do it anyway.

Many companies write off the impact of software piracy in order to justify their belief that it is ethical. May be this activity prove as ethical but it is not legal of piracy of software without the permission and copyrights of the programmers. The study estimates that, of the 615 million new business software applications installed worldwide during 1998, 231 million, or 38%, were pirated. They estimate that this resulted in an $11 billion loss to software companies.

Ethics can be defined in different ways depending on the culture, e.g. in USA to be ethical means to respect the laws. But what is legal is not necessarily ethical, and one can interpret a law according to his/her objective. The strategy “Fight against action” can be also considered as an ethical one in regards to the company’s employees and shareholders (Hove, 2005).

The Nebraska case study exemplifies one complex dilemma in patient care: Law; ethics; nurses. They interface with each other in dramatic ways. Nurses need to be prepared for these challenges. Nebraska case study demonstrated why and how easily one’s clinical nursing practice can be significantly altered because of legal activities that may put nurses into legal, ethical and professional difficulties (Furlong, 2008). Rentmeester (2006) stated: “In negotiating uncertainties and responding to interesting, important, and complex questions and dilemmas in healthcare, it appears that health care professionals cannot rely solely on legal experts. Rather they must carefully disceen and collegially discuss moral reasons to respond with care to patients and to one another in difficult cases.” P(32)

Advantages of ethical behavior of organizations

Personal self confidence increases.

Organizations who have applied ethical rules in organizations strictly increase each individuals employee self confidence and motivation to do things properly.

Company profit increases

When every individual’s confidence level increase productivity increases and with the increase of Productivity Company profit also increases.

Relationship with colleagues

When employees have believe on each other and full trust on their seniors and respect of their juniors, friendly environment created in organization then communication between employees also increased in friendly manner.

Follow of rules

When employees see honesty in organization, they obey rules by themselves as well as much they can and due to this misconduct decreases in organization.

Conclusion and discussion

Every person learns norms, values, good and evil, right and wrong from society where he lives and he decide on the basis of these standards that what is right and what is wrong. Rules are derived from Ethical Assumptions and vary from country to country due to Religious, Cultural or social standards. Some countries are so rigid and others are so dynamic in nature to adopt new rules. Country culture affect the organizational culture and organizations abide by laws based on Ethical Principles.

In the above mentioned case shows that most of the companies abide by laws and deliberate more on legal consideration than ethical consideration. Gaski (1999) suggests managers of the companies that it’s ethical guidelines to ‘obey the law’ and ‘act in your self-interest’. In most of the cases organizations focused on legal consideration for HR Practices like training, performance appraisal, fixed rate of wage, etc. In 1996, the entry level wage at one of these factories was $2.20 per day in Nike (International Company) which was fixed on the basis of their legal consideration. On the other hand ‘The Nebraska case study’ exemplifies the training of nurses for legal consideration. Therefore, the main focus of organizations is on legal consideration.

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