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Moral Rights in the Workplace
Chapter Six
Jerry Estenson
• Work is important and a highly valued human
activity because it is necessary to acquire
other central human goods.
• Work and moral rights are connected because
opportunities to work can be jeopardized by
the actions of others.
Rights in the work place
• Remember rights cannot be bought, sold, or forcibly
taken away
• Legal
– Derived from legislation and judicial rulings
• Contractual
– Negotiated in good faith or a result of a policy or
• Respect owed human beings. This is the domain of
moral rights in the workplace
– Freedom
– Equality
– Autonomy
The rights equation
• Greater the rights = Greater the obligation
Right to work
• First definition is based
on employee
requirement to join a
– This is done to eliminate
“free rider” (those who
enjoy the benefit
without contributing)
– Collective bargaining
view as way to balance
power in the workplace
Right to work - Macro
• Basis for Catholic Church and UN declaration
of work as a human right
– Means to an end
– Expression of a meaningful human life
Who should provide jobs?
• Private Industry and the
free market
• Government
• Safety Net
Private Industry
• Who should they be required to hire?
• How long should they be required to employ?
• At what rate should workers be paid?
– What about property rights of employers?
• Employer of “Last Resort”
• Government employment drains from the
Safety Net
• Unemployment Insurance
• Tax Incentives to hire folks on welfare
Rights in the Workplace
• Employment at will
– Trade off for the elimination of slavery and
indentured servitude
– Employee free to quit employer free to fire for:
• Good cause, for no cause, or even for cause morally
Changes in the “At Will Doctrine”
Never applied to government workers
Civil rights protections
Union activity protections
OSHA whistle blowing
Whistle blowing
Employee handbooks as “implied contracts”
Practices such as payment of bonuses as
handled in the past
Termination of employment
• Magna Carta doctrine – limit the authority of
the King
• Due process required
– Seen as inefficient
• Just cause required
• All an attempt to balance power in the
workplace. Employees cannot be bought and
Participatory Decision Making
• Who has authority
– Authority is given with consent of those governed
• McCall – Employees should be treated as
autonomous decision makers free of coercive
interference by others. Human dignity is tied
to the ability of humans to guide their own life
and activities.
Benefits of Participation
• Reduces possibility of alienenatation
• Reduces burnout
• Workers may not have specific expertise but
do have other valuable knowledge
• May appear inefficient but creates a high
degree of buy in and quick execution
Health and Safety
• Who determines the degree of risk a worker
should take?
– The individual
– Experts
– Senior Managers
– Government
• Who has perfect knowledge?
• Who is thinking beyond first generation
solutions to a problem?
Privacy in the workplace
Right to be left alone within a personal zone of solitude
Right to control information about oneself
Important because it establishes boundaries
Workplace violations
– Infringes on personal decisions that are irrelevant to work
– Personal information that is irrelevant to work contract
that is collected, stored or used without consent
– Polygraphs, drug tests, surveillance, background checks,
psychological tests
Break Down our options in the
Discussion Case
• Right involved
• Actors involved
– Interest of the actors
• Ethical recommendation
What rights are in jeopardy
Urine Test
Commission payment
Abortion discussion
Psychological test
Exposure to hazardous