Business Ethics and Organization Social Responsibility (MGT 422)

Read the case given and answer the questions:

An Ethical Dilemma*

As Lavonda sat in the Ethics Office of the vice president of Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals (EAP), she was worried. Because she was new in the company and didn’t know the unwritten rules, the chain-of-command philosophy, and the employees and associates around her very well, her time in the office was very uncomfortable. Given how well things had started, it was painful for her to remember how she had gotten here. Lavonda had been lured away from her last company because of her expertise in the pharmaceutical industry and her early success in management. Out of college just three and a half years, she had gotten out of the gate remarkably quickly. She had helpful mentors, challenging tasks that she excelled in, and came in below budget on each assignment. Lavonda was typically described as effective and efficient; in fact, at the last company, they even started to call her “E.” But the lure of a six-figure salary, the encounter with Allen (her future boss at EAP), and the chance to be close to her elderly mother made it nearly impossible for Lavonda to say no. She loved her mother and, being an only child, felt responsible for her. Her mother once said that she would prefer to take her own life rather than move to a nursing home. In the beginning, Lavonda’s immediate supervisor, Allen, had been very charming and taught her about the company, its products, the salespeople, and the politics. She knew from experience that she would have to earn the respect of the salespeople she would manage, all of whom were 10 years her senior, and the fact that these men had never had a female boss was just another hurdle to overcome. Allen had helped her fi nd a nice house in a good neighbourhood, had assisted with the moving, and eventually had become more than her superior. The months slipped by, and their relationship had become “close,” to the point where they began to discuss living arrangements. And then something strange happened—she heard a story about Allen and Karline.

Karline, who had come to EAP six months prior to Lavonda, worked in Human Resources, and in a few short months she had become head of the HR department at EAP amidst rumours of Allen “helping” her get the promotion. Six more months passed, and Lavonda learned that the rumours about Karline and Allen were probably true. She heard the same type of scenario that she had experienced for herself: friend, helping with housing, possible intimacy, and so on. The rumours became so intense that Lavonda confronted Allen about them and discovered that they were true. Devastated, Lavonda ended the relationship with Allen in a heated confrontation, but it seemed as though Allen didn’t understand that it was over. Weeks went by with little contact between the two of them, and then one afternoon Allen stopped by her office. He apologized for his behaviour, and Lavonda accepted his apology. But the next day he stopped by and began to touch and even grope Lavonda. She made a joke of it to defuse the situation, but several days later Allen repeated the same behaviour, making several sexual remarks. He asked, “Honey, why can’t it be like it was before?” and then whispered some graphic sexual language. Lavonda’s face reddened and she said, “Allen, you are a pig. How dare you say such things to me! You’ve crossed the line. I’ve never heard such fi lth. Don’t you ever say such things to me again, or I’ll report you to Human Resources!” Several weeks went by, and Lavonda got a phone call from Allen in which he described even more sexually suggestive things. Every few days, Allen would stop by or call and remind her of some “private” experience they had together, using vulgar sexual language. He would taunt her by saying, “Lavonda, you know you want this from me.” It became almost a daily ritual. Allen never wrote any of the things that he described to her, being sure not to leave tangible proof of his behaviour, but occasionally he would grab or attempt to grab her sexually. Eventually, Lavonda had had enough and went to the Human Resources department to complain formally about Allen, his sexual advances, and the hostile environment that they had created. The person she met at HR was Karline. As Lavonda described the situation in detail, she finally said, “Karline, I need you to help me. What Allen is doing to me is wrong and illegal. I can’t get my work done. He’s undermining my position with my sales staff, he’s giving me poor evaluations, and he’s suggesting that I could change all that if I wanted to!” Karline’s response was, “Lavonda, I’ve heard what you’ve said, but I also have had people come to me with some very disturbing reports about you as well. For example, you and Allen were supposedly sleeping together, and he is your direct supervisor. If this was the case, then it should have been reported immediately; but it wasn’t. You have no tangible evidence except for your word. Even if I believed you, the allegation that you had been sexually active with Allen can be construed as making all of what you’ve said mutual or consensual. If that’s the case, then I would have to fi re you because of the superior–employee ethics code, and a letter would go into your permanent fi le that would probably haunt your career for years to come. From my perspective, we can call this an informal and confidential meeting that is not to be repeated, or you can continue this formally and take your chances. It’s your call, Lavonda, but you should know that I am disinclined to support your accusations.” In shock, Lavonda mumbled a thank you to Karline and left her office. The next day Allen stopped by, smiled, waved his finger at her and said, “Your performance review is next week, and it doesn’t look good. By the way, just so you know, the pharmaceutical industry is quite small, and I have friends at all the majors. Oh, I forgot to tell you how sorry I am for your mother and her cancer diagnosis. Chemo and the side effects are very draining. I’m glad that you’re close by to help her through the ordeal. They say it takes months to fully recover. It would be horrible if you weren’t here to help her and she had to go to a nursing home. Those places scare me.” Lavonda said, “Allen, why are you doing this to me? I’m not fond of you anymore. We have no future together. Doesn’t that tell you something?” Allen smiled and said, “It tells me that you’re not interested in a permanent relationship, which is good, because neither am I. And you know that if you want to be promoted or go to another company with a good recommendation, it all starts with me. Lavonda, there might be another ‘solution’ to your perceived problem. You know that new sales rep you just hired out of school, Soo-Chin? Well, if you could have her assigned to me and maybe ‘coax her in the right way,’ I know of a position in the company that would be a promotion for you and you wouldn’t be around me. But everything depends upon the success of your coaxing”

So now here Lavonda was, about to meet with the vice president of ethical affairs. As she got up from the chair, she pondered her alternatives and what had led her there. In school she had learned that each company had its own individual code of ethics, but she didn’t know the reality of the code at EAP until it was too late.

QUESTIONS

1. Keeping in mind the facts and timeline of this situation, discuss Lavonda’s situation in terms of legal and ethical issues. Is Allen in violation of sexual harassment and/ or sexual discrimination laws in the United States? (600 words)- 7 Marks

2. Discuss Lavonda’s alternatives and possible professional and private outcomes for her. (Minimum 2 alternatives & 2 outcomes, 500 words)- 4 Marks

3. Certainly Allen has damaged Lavonda’s performance level; however, discuss whether he has created a legally hostile work environment. (500 words)- 4 Marks

*This case is strictly hypothetical; any resemblance to real persons, companies, or situations is coincidental.

(Avoid plagiarism, the work should be in your own words, the reference format is APA)

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