Ethical Issues in HR: Federal
Authors: Meredith Gaunce and Kevin D. Zwetsch, Ogletree Deakins
- Ethics focus on conduct that is morally acceptable in a specific sector of society, rather than legally required conduct. See Difference Between Ethical Principles and Legal Requirements.
- When an employer wants to understand its legal requirements, it can simply consult statutes, case law and regulations. Ethical obligations may be either written or unwritten and, therefore, may not always be clear. See Difference Between Ethical Principles and Legal Requirements.
- The standards of conduct dictated by ethical principles typically exceed the standards established by legal requirements. See Relationship Between Ethical and Legal Obligations.
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) requires covered employers to have a code of ethics designed to deter wrongdoing. An employer's code of ethics must include a statement promoting financial integrity that clearly applies to senior financial officers. See Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
- Forcing employees to consider their conduct in terms of what is morally acceptable, instead of in terms of what is legally correct, will increase the likelihood of employees' conduct remaining within the confines of established legal requirements. See Importance of an Organizational Ethics Program.
- Employers may adopt a centralized or a decentralized organizational ethics program. See Structuring the Employer's Organizational Ethics Program.
- Employers should publish employees' ethical obligations. See Establishing Organizational Rules of Ethics.
- If internal counsel conducts an ethics investigation, the employer should consider the impact on attorney-client privilege and attorney work product. See Investigating Reported Ethics Violations.