In the recent past, ethics in the context of employment has been considered as universal among employees in both private and public sectors. While courts have solved numerous cases related to the working environment, most ethical issues have remained unresolved. The law stipulates the guidance for making informed decisions concerning ethical issues in working environment, but such issues should also be understood beyond permissible considerations. Therefore, Employment-At-Will Doctrine maintains that in the absence of specific contractual, as well as other legal obligations that stipulate the duration of employment contract; all employees are engaged “at will.” Hence, the statement implies that unless specified otherwise in an agreement, employers may fire workers at any time and for whatever reason. On the other hand, an employee may opt to quit a job at any time and for whatever reason without giving prior notifying the employer (Cihon, 2016). Under Georgia statutes, employees are deemed to be engaged at-will not unless there exist additional specifications (understanding) between the worker and the employer.
Federal and state laws proscribe an employer from making employment decisions depending on the race, religion, color, sex, nationality, age, veteran, as well as disability status of an individual. For instance, Georgia Ports Authority has utilized the state’s employment-at-will doctrine to guarantee equal employment rights to its employees. The company (employer) has recognized specific discrimination laws that offer protection to employees against other factors that may include sexual orientation. It is imperative to note that the laws on discrimination prevent members of secluded classes from unfavorable employment. For instance, an employer may terminate an employee’s contract due to failure to perform a specific duty, but not based on a fact that she is in a wheelchair (Wayne, 2007).
Besides, retaliation is also considered as a statute-based exception to the doctrine. Federal, as well as state law proscribes employer from firing a worker in reprisal for engaging in lawful, appropriate and desirable activities. For instance, an employee in Georgia is entitled to claim a minimum wage or payment for overtime, joining a union, rejecting illegal discrimination, and whistle-blowing. While most statutes offer whistleblower protection in relation to workers in the public sector, there exist limitations for workers in the private sector. In the United States, nearly 17 states have passed the whistleblower law that offers protection to workers from the private sector against unfavorable employment actions if they support evidence of mistreatment from an employer (Wayne, 2007).
Legal and Ethical Issues
Both the federal, as well as state regulations protect employees from being subjected to unsafe working conditions while guaranteeing them minimum wages, as well as compensation for overtime. For instance, there exist health and safety statutes that stipulate the standards to be followed by an employer in protecting employees from chemical exposure, hazardous noise levels, risky work practices, harmful cold or heat, and unsafe ventilation conditions in Georgia. These laws require an employer to provide protective clothing for specific types of jobs and provide particular medical tests to employees at the expense of the company. Failure to meet all these ethical and legal issues, an employee may sue the company for the violation of these ethical standards, and the court may demand compensation to the injured party (Charles, 2001).
Moreover, the federal law stipulates that an employee should be paid a minimum wage and compensated for overtime for specific hours worked. However, the law has specific exceptions to overtime obligations, especially for supervisors, professional workers and for particular duties such as those allocated to salespeople who make use of telecommunications and internet to carry out their jobs. Also, the law stipulates minimum wages that must be compensated to construction workers dealing with public projects, as well as workers under government contracts (Cihon, 2016).
The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) stipulates that employers that make use of consumer credit information in relation to credit standing, worthiness, capacity, attributes, as well as the reputation and characteristics of employees must receive written permission from such applicants. Further, an employer may use these details to make decisions on employment. Further, the employer is required by the statute to provide an employee with a duplicate of a consumer credit report accompanied by a copy of the employee’s right prior to taking an adverse action such as firing an employee (Charles, 2001).
For example, the State’s of Georgia statute provides an employer with a right to monitor the performance of an employee in the workplace, particularly in issues related to productivity, ethics, as well as safety. Recent technological advancement has made it possible for employers to employ new methods to monitor employees such as through the e-mails, internet usage, and telephone calls. However, the State’s of Georgia law does not allow an employer to monitor an employee, especially through telephone monitoring when carrying out legitimate business. Also, the statute stipulates that employers should only listen to telephone calls that are related to the business but not monitoring personal calls. Moreover, the employee is protected against invasion of privacy, as well as public exposure of discomforting private information (Cihon, 2016).
As a recently-hired COO (Chief Operating Officer), I would make appropriate decisions in my company to address personnel issues as stipulated by Employment-At-Will Doctrine. Employment is for a specified time period and may be terminated at any time by either an employee or an employer. Therefore, John’s action of criticizing the company’s potential customer on his Facebook page may lead to the termination of his employment. Although the law protects employees from unfair dismissal and interference with their privacy, the post was intended to tarnish the company’s name. Further, Georgia’s statute protects the exposure of a company’s information to the outside party without the consent of an employer. Thus, as a Chief Operating Officer, I would be right to dismiss John as per the guidelines of Employment-At-Will Doctrine (Wayne, 2007).
On the other hand, Bill has been using the company’s BlackBerry to manage his own business. Hence, under the Employment-At-Will Doctrine, this action is not allowed under the law. The company’s property should only be used for intended purposes and inside its premises. Therefore, I would be justified to dismiss Bill under violation of this law. Equally significantly, company’s resources should not be used for personal businesses (Charles, 2001).
In addition, Anna should not be dismissed since her action did not amount to absconding of the duties. Her boss refused to maliciously sign her leave form without a just cause. As stipulated by law under-covenant-of-good-faith exception, an employee should only be fired for just cause. Hence, an employment term should not be terminated for malicious reasons (Charles, 2001).
Given the fact that federal law and the legal exceptions to the Employment-At-Will Doctrine exist, the presumption has continued to be distinguished as important ingredients of the Georgia’s employment setting. Although an employee is capable of making numerous claims pertaining to the working environment, they can prove difficult to be confirmed. Also, not all employees’ claims are recognized under state and federal regulations. Nevertheless, the Employment-At-Will Doctrine serves as an important document to protect the rights of an employee due to illegal discrimination and protection of consumer privacy.
Charles J. M. (2001). “The Employment-At-Will Doctrine: Three Major Exceptions,” Monthly Labor Review (January 2001): 3-11.
Cihon, P. J. (2016). Employment and labor law. S.l. Massachusetts: Cengage Learning.
Wayne N. O. (2007). “When Good Deeds Are Punished: The Legal Landscape of Retaliation and Whistleblowing,” Litigation and Administrative Practice Course Handbook Serie. New York: Practising Law Institute.