Ethics is embodied in an organization’s expression of its values to its employees. Labor relations, as component of Human Resource Management assures that these values are embedded in the organization’s programs and policies. Its major responsibility is to establish and maintain a smooth relationship between management and the employees assure strict adherence to government regulatory laws.
Organizations have vision, mission and value statements that serve as guide for both employees and management on the kind of organizational environment and culture that they envision to have. These vision, mission or value statements are prepared and agreed upon by everybody and serve as basis for all interventions the human resource department will implement either as rules of discipline or as incentive programs. Although these are guides for both management and workers, the organization develops an ethical culture “where employees and management use values and not rules to self-govern and can only take root when executives, managers, supervisors and employees understand and embrace the company’s principles and values and incorporate them into their daily conduct.” (RP News Wires 2007)
Operating within the Law
Governments set the framework for labor relations. They ensure that workers in both private and public organizations are treated fairly. Labor laws or employment laws are promulgated to regulate the organizations’ employment practices. These laws declare limitations as well as obligations of organizations towards their employees. These laws also explain employees’ rights in the organizations. The government takes an active role in monitoring the implementation of the labor laws. Regular inspection and interview with employees are conducted to assure that the organization continuously adheres to the labor laws.
Most common issues and violations affecting employees are non-payment of wages, wrongful dismissal, workplace harassment and other unfair labor practices. Organizations that afford to risk these violations also risk their ability to recruit and retain employees and submit to government sanctions, penalties and court cases. According to LRN survey in 2007 conducted among full time American workers as part of an omnibus survey from Opinion Research Corporation, “more than one in three employed Americans have actually left a job because they disagreed with a company’s business ethics.” (RP News Wires 2007)
There are also many ethical organizations that willingly seek to maintain good relations with employees regardless of government regulations because of the benefits they get out of good employee relations. They are able to hiring more qualified employees and maintain those that are already employed. LRN survey also found that “companies with a commitment to ethical conduct enjoy distinct advantages in the marketplace, including attracting and retaining talent” (RP News Wires 2007) and that these companies also experience fewer ethical distractions.
Harassment in the Workplace
Harassment is an offensive behavior made against a person; an act that is threatening or disturbing beyond those that are sanctioned by the society. Harassment in the workplace is that act against an employee committed by management or another employee. This act violates the employee’s rights as a person and as an employee of the organization.
Elliot Myles (1999) defined two types of harassment based on the results of the act. One is if the harassment results in “tangible employment action … often called ‘quid pro quo’ harassment” (1999). When the harassment results in a material change in the terms of the employment contract like when an employee is not given the privileges promised in the contract. The other type is when the act of harassment resulted in a hostile working environment, also called “environmental harassment” (Myles 1999). This type of harassment usually does not happen in single incidents. They are usually repeated and the recognition of the offense depends on the degree or how badly the employee is aggrieved. Examples of this type of harassment are frequent insults on an employee, humiliation in front of other employees and clients and even inflicting body contact to hurt or take advantage of the employee. Simple teasing or offhand comments may not be serious but when frequently done and when the employee’s workplace environment, particularly his/her performance in the job is affected, the act may be considered harassment.
Other examples of workplace harassment are maltreatment of workers by supervisors or managers, using derogatory terms when referring to a minority or disabled employee, employees denied promotion because of the employee’s refusal to grant supervisor’s favor and sexual harassment. Governments worldwide have established stricter policies and sanctions on sexual harassment especially with strong lobbying of women’s rightists for government legislations and organizations are closely monitored on these violations. What constitute sexual harassment vary in different countries and states.
“Harassment in the workplace is illegal.” (Myles 1999) These violations do not only affect the organization. These also involve public interest thus it is the ethical responsibility of management to raise harassment cases to proper government authorities. It is also the right of every employee to file a case in court. One controversial case involving sexual harassment in the workplace was that of Meritor Savings Bank versus Vinson in 1986 which was brought to court and decided in favor of the employee. The lady employee of the bank was propositioned by her supervisor. The lady was forced to have a relationship with the supervisor in fear of losing her job. The supervisor made advances on the lady employee in front of other employees. “he fondled the plaintiff in front of other employees, followed her into the restroom when she was there by herself, and even exposed himself to her on some occasions”…“The Court held that the plaintiff could recover damages from her employer by showing that the harassment was 1) unwelcome and 2) severe enough to create an “abusive working environment”. (Case Studies in Sexual Harassment n.d.)
Prevalent cases of harassment and other human rights violations may be attributed to lean, if not poor selection of employees. It is important to screen applicants and conduct background and character checks and subject them to battery of personality tests to assure that the employees hired have good characters and personalities fitting the organization. It is also the responsibility of human resource department to implement programs to educate the employees, both rank-and-file and management about proper conduct and workplace behavior inculcating the value of respect for individual rights. These, among other programs may prevent the occurrence of workplace harassment and violation of employees’ rights.
1. “Case Studies in Sexual Harassment” (n.d.) Texas Workforce.com. Retrieved 4 June 2008 from http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/case_studies_in_sexual_harassment.html
2. Myles, E. A. (1999) “Harassment in the Workplace”. The Castleman Law Firm, Pleasanton, CA. Retrieved 4 June 2008 from http://www.castlelaw.com/harass.htm
2. RP News Wires. (2007) “Survey: Ethics impact employment and productivity”. Reliable Plant. Retrieved 4 June 2008 from http://www.reliableplant.com/article.asp?pagetitle=Survey:%20Ethics%20impact%20employment%20and%20productivity%20;articleid=2236