Discrimination and ethical questions


The website EEOC.gov should be a bookmarked site for any individual who is working as or plans to work as a manager in a business with more than one (i.e. the owner) employee. This website contains the information which the Federal Government expects companies and businesses to use and follow with respect to hiring, firing, and disciplining its employees. It explains disabilities, how to handle them, and when to use them in making hiring decisions. It also provides information about "protected classes," in which people must be a member before they can claim "discrimination."

You should plan to visit the EEOC website to help work through this ethical dilemma faced by Paul and Mary, two managers in the company, "The Lemon Tree." Read through the fictional dilemma (attached), and then choose the subject of discrimination discussed therein. Some of this seems obvious, but others aren't as easy to determine as they seem. Read the dilemma, and then briefly discuss.

Problem 1. What is one aspect of Title VII that has been violated by the company?

Problem 2. Which actions by the two employees that call their credibility into question are you allowed, as an employer, to consider? Or, what types of actions are you not allowed to use and why? Are there any you wish you could use?

Support your answers to the questions above with a law or business reason.

300 to 500 words

Case Scenario:

The Lemon Tree is a publicly traded company which has 2,900 employees and operates out of Tallahassee, Florida. It produces and packages for resale products using lemon, including toiletries, foodstuffs, bathroom cleaning products and paint and nail polish removers. All of its products incorporates the use of a highly secret chemical formula derived from fresh lemons, grown on trees right on the grounds of the company.  Only 3 people in the company have access to the secret formula, the CEO, Smitty Smiles, the head of Research, Paul Peel, and the chemist, Peter Dragon, also known as "Puff." Puff has a drug problem. Now, granted, it was in his past, and he has passed 3 out of the past 5 drug tests performed by the company.  The two failed tests were chalked up to a "fluke" as a result of some chemicals he'd been working on.  Puff successfully completed a drug rehab program in 1985, which the company paid for. His doctor at the time announced that he was cured.  Paul has recommended that Puff be fired after both of the failed drug tests, but Puff fought the recommendations through the HR ADA committee, and won both times.

One of the other members of a different branch of the research team, Jackie Paper, is good friends with Puff. Jackie underwent a sex change operation 5 years ago, and is now a woman, although she was a man when she was first hired in the company 8 years ago. She is also Asian, and considers herself, as a female minority, in a protected class which is routinely treated unfairly. Recently she filed a complaint with the company compliance department that she felt she had been passed over for a promotion due to her sex change status, and because she is an Asian female. That is currently under investigation. Some of her comments about her boss, Mary, have been less than flattering to her, including allegations that Mary and Paul are having an affair.

Mary is Jackie's manager and boss. Mary reports to Paul Peel, and is on the same level as Puff, although in a different area of research. She heads up the research area of putting the lemon formula into play. Mary is African American, and really resents that Jackie has filed this discrimination action against her. Mary believes that she would never even consider discriminating against someone for any reason, and in fact, her department has held the record for the most minority hires, percentage-wise, in the entire company for the past 4 years. Mary is also 55 years old, and a born-again Christian. She did try to talk Jackie out of her sex-change operation when it was happening, and she lobbied against the company paying for it, and in fact, persuaded Smitty Smiles to refuse to add "sex change operations" to the coverage of their insurance. She did file two complaints for Jackie missing too much work during part of that process, when Jackie missed 3 months of work in a row.   She and Paul have both emphatically denied that they are having an affair.

The company has just learned that their competitor has "broken the code" of the secret formula and is now marketing a "new and improved" version of the "now passé" Lemon Tree formula.  The whole thing stinks of corporate espionage.  Paul and Mary have a meeting with Smitty, and both of them accuse their own people of the leak, Mary accused Jackie, saying, "That girl-man goes both ways in her personal life, why wouldn't she-he in his ethical life?"  Paul accuses Peter-Puff saying, "I'm sure that his friendship with Jackie could be questionable. He has the secret and maybe he shared it with Jackie. I do think he's back on drugs. Frankly, Smitty, I think we need to hire a new chemist, and get this department back on track. The fact we downsized off 25% of our white males last year to put us back into compliance with HR’s diversity numbers has really put us in a bind.”

Mary opened her mouth briefly to complain, but then closed it. It was her idea to clean house of white males, and she resented this backhanded comment about it right to her face.  As soon as she returned to her office, she wrote a synopsis of the entire conversation in her journal, and then vowed to herself to oppose the hiring of ANY white males to her department, regardless of qualifications. She knew that she had the backing of the head of HR, Larry Pickles, with whom she really was having a secret affair.

Smitty immediately calls security and has both Jackie and Peter put in administrative suspension, and escorted from their offices in front of everyone "until further notice" they are told.   "Go home until this is all sorted out."  Just as they were walked out the front door, one of the security guys says to Peter, "And go sober up, Puff." Peter and Jackie immediately head straight for the EEOC office. 

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