Employers’ Ethical and Criminal Responsibility

Subject: Law
Pages: 4
Words: 1010
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


In recent times, there has been an increase in scandals within the corporate environment (Friedman, 2007). There has also been a sharp decline in business values especially with regards to the manner in which employees conduct themselves within and outside the workplace. These trends have raised eyebrows as to the status of ethics and corporate responsibility. With an aim of enhancing corporate responsibility, the United States Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act with an aim of encouraging corporations to conduct business in a legal manner (Mallow, Barnes, Langvardt, Prenkert and McCory, 2015).

Through this Act, firms are expected to run their business in an ethical and responsible manner. This paper will thus focus on the ethical and criminal responsibility that employers have with their employees.

Ethical Obligations of the Employer

In an event where an employer knows or has reason to suspect that an employee poses danger to others, the employer has an ethical obligation to take corrective or preventive measures. In accordance to the right’s ethical theory, there are specific human liberties that are critical and should be respected by every individual (Knights, 2006). This theory lays emphasis on the rights and liberties of individuals within the society and as such it creates a fundamental basis that aims at safeguarding the rights of each individual as per the stipulations of the constitution.

In this respect, an employer is bestowed with the ethical responsibility of ensuring the safety of employees as well as the public. Therefore, an employer is expected to create and maintain a working environment that is safe for both the employee and the public and if the employer knows or has reason to suspect that an employee poses danger to others, the employer should take necessary steps to remove such an employee from the workplace as a precaution.

Level of Evidence

As asserted earlier, an employer has the ethical obligation of ensuring and maintaining the safety of the employees and the public. Therefore, in an event where the employer has reasonable suspicion or irrefutable evidence against a specific employee, the employer has the power to dismiss the said employee from the workplace as a security measure. This is due to the fact that employers do not need to have irrefutable evidence of harmful behavior, malice, or misconduct to take necessary action that is required to safeguard other employees or the public (Guest and Woodrow, 2012).

Details and Extension of Ethical Obligation

An employer has an ethical obligation that extends to the employee in question, other employees at the workplace, and the public. The harmful act of an employee can be within or outside the workplace. As asserted by Mallow et al. (2015), the violence of an employee in the public scene is considered as a more pressing issue as compared to the workplace. In such an event, an employer has two approaches in dealing with the issue; a corrective action and a preventive action (Nord, 2006). Usually, employers apply the corrective action approach by terminating the employment of the employee in question.

On the other hand, employers apply a preventive approach by avoiding hiring individuals who seem to have the potential of posing harm to fellow employees or the public. The most common means of achieving this is through screening especially on social media sites of employees to get a glimpse of their behaviors and activities. Constant monitoring of the personality of the employees at the work place is also an ideal means of screening to determine if an employee has the potential to cause harm at the work place. Most importantly, employers should have regular clinics, trainings and seminars that aim at enhancing the importance of adhering to the ethics of the corporation as well as adhering to the stipulations of the law.

Ethical Obligation to the Employee

In the case at hand, the employer has ethical obligations with regards to the employee at hand. First, the employer needs to be familiar with the codes of ethics that govern the profession of the employee in question (Valentine and Fleischman, 2008). In this respect, the employer will be in a better position of acting in an ethical and professional manner with regards to the employee’s harmful behavior. Generally, the employer has an ethical obligation of treating the employee in question with integrity. In this case, the employer is expected to treat the employee in a morally accepted manner.

The employer is also expected to be honest to the employee. In this case, the employer needs to clearly explain to the employee the accusations that have been laid against him/her and the decision that the employer has arrived on with regards to the said acts. Finally, the employer should handle the case of the employee and treat him/her with fairness. The employee needs to be impartial while handling the case. Despite the outcome of the decision that will be arrived at, the employer needs to be just and fair. These ethical obligations are necessary since the employee in question is part of the employer’s staff and as such should be treated according to the moral and ethics of the corporation.

Torts and Criminal Liability in the Scenario

In the scenario described, several torts and criminal liabilities may arise depending on the nature of the wrongful act that was conducted by the employee in question. For instance, if the employee in question physically assaulted a fellow member of staff or a member of the public in a violent manner, he/she would be liable for the tort of battery. The employee in question will also be liable of the criminal offense of assault.

In accordance to the doctrine of Respondeat superior, the employer may also be liable for the acts committed by the employee if the said acts were within the employee’s scope and description of employment (Valentine and Fleischman, 2008). However, if the acts were outside the scope and description of employment, the employer can only be liable if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that there was negligence in the process of hiring, supervising and retaining the employee.


Friedman, B. (2007). Workplace Privacy: Employee Relations and Legal Implications of Monitoring Employee E-mail Use. Employee Response Right Journal, 122(3), 45-53.

Guest, D. E., and Woodrow, C. (2012). Exploring the Boundaries of Human Resource Managers’ Responsibilities. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(1), 109-119.

Knights, D. (2006). Leadership, Ethics and the Responsibility to the Other. Journal of Business Ethics, 67(1), 125-137.

Mallow, J., Barnes, A., Langvardt, A., Prenkert, J. and McCory, M. (2015). Business Law: The Ethical, Global, and E-Commerce Environment. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Nord, G. (2006). E-Monitoring in the Workplace: Privacy, Legislation, and Surveillance Software. Communications of the ACM, 49(8), 118-131.

Valentine, S. and Fleischman, G. (2008). Professional Ethical Standards, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Perceived Role of Ethics and Social Responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(3), 657-666.