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Week 6:  Case 8.2- Web Porn at Work

Business Ethics

Esssay Questions Content 

Please read Case 8.2 and answer the questions at the end. Please be sure to answer your questions with details.

Al Smetana is the founding president of a medium-size, midwestern manufacturing firm, Rayburn Unlimited. He’s proud of the way his company has grown, and done so on the basis of an organizational culture committed to honesty, integrity, and the intrinsic value of each individual. But now those values are being put to the test.
It began when Al learned that an employee had tapped into the company’s computer system and figured out how to read people’s e-mail and to learn what websites they visited. Determining who the culprit was wasn’t difficult. When confronted about it, the employee admitted what he had done. Al immediately terminated his employment. But as he left, the employee said angrily, “Just ask Lindley about his computer usage,” referring to Craig Lindley, associate vice president for human resources and an old friend of Al’s. Although Al didn’t trust the discharged employee, he was disturbed by his comment and reluctant to let it go. So he called Craig Lindley into his office and asked him about it.
After a few minutes of gentle questioning, Craig started weeping. When he recovered himself, he explained that for the past year or so he had been hooked on pornography on the web and at the office sometimes spent an hour or so a day looking at it. Al asked him whether his wife knew. Craig said she didn’t. He was too ashamed of his habit to talk to her or anybody else about it. Al then told him to take the rest of the day off, to think the matter over, and to return to Al’s office the next morning. When Craig left, Al stood and looked out the window, silently asking himself what he should do.*

Discussion Questions

  1. Is Craig Lindley’s behavior a sign of some psychological problem that Rayburn Unlimited should help him overcome, perhaps with personal counseling? Or is dismissal called for? Should Al Smetana fire Craig to send a message to other employees not to misuse company time and resources?
  2. Does Al have just cause for dismissing Craig? Does it matter whether or not Rayburn Unlimited has an explicit policy regarding computer use? Suppose it has such a policy and Craig violated it. Does that settle the matter? Would it affect your judgment of the case if Craig had helped draw up that policy?
  3. Does the fact that Craig is a valued member of the company with a long record of service make a difference? Or that he is a personal friend of Al’s?
  4. Was it right for Al to have asked Craig about his computer usage in the first place? Did he violate Craig’s privacy or civil liberties?
  5. Because Al fired the employee who violated the company’s computer system, would it be inconsistent or unfair of him to treat Craig any differently?
  6. Al Smetana and Rayburn Unlimited are committed to honesty and integrity (the upholding of which seems to support dismissal) and the intrinsic worth of each individual (which might argue for more lenient treatment). Are these values in conflict? What would you do if you were Al?

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