You are the ethics officer at Friendly Digits, a respected and profitable social media company in Colossal Corporation’s technology group. Friday morning, you arrive at your office to find you’ve received a voicemail from Ernst Blofeld. Blofeld has been a vice president at Friendly Digits for several years, and was recently considered for promotion to a senior vice president position. Ultimately, the promotion was awarded to another long term employee, Tara King. You find it difficult to make out some of Blofeld’s message. The words are occasionally slurred, as though he may have had a little too much to drink. I’m in Palm Springs for a conference, he explains, and I ran into a nice couple here at the hotel bar. You’d never believe it, but they’re old friends of Tara’s from school. I told them about her promotion, and they said she never finished her degree. She dropped out of the MBA program they all attended, and they never saw her again. You have to get to HR to check this out for me.
You check Friendly Digits policy manual, which states that potential employees must submit transcripts for all degrees listed on their resumes. But this requirement was not in place 10 years ago when Tara King was hired. King has received excellent performance evaluations during her time at Friendly Digits, and her leadership has led to increased revenue and positive press for the company. Her record of success is what led to her promotion. After a brief consultation with Mindy Wu, the director of human resources, you telephone King. Based on current HR policy, we’re asking all employees who don’t have official transcripts on file, to submit them to the human resources department. There is a silence at King’s end, then in a shaky voice, she tells you that she does not in fact have an MBA. I was 12 credits away from completing my degree, she says, but then my dad got sick and I had to drop out. I really needed a job to support my family. I put the MBA on my resume because I hoped it would help me get hired. I always intended to go back to school, but I never did. It was a really stressful time.
You tell King that you need a little time to think about the situation. You promise to call her back as soon as possible. You know that an MBA was not a requirement for the assistant project specialist job King was hired for 10 years ago. But four years ago, it was made a requirement for the senior vice president position she holds now. Two of the current senior vice presidents do not have MBA degrees, because they were promoted before this requirement was in place. Mindy Wu has asked you to memo with your recommendations on how human resources should handle this issue. King has a record of excellence with Friendly Digits, and her superiors would be unhappy to lose her.
Step 1: Ethical Analysis
The ethical aspects of King’s situation seem complex, and you realize that you need a structured way to think through the various possibilities and their implications. You know that there are many different schools of ethical thought and a variety of frameworks or approaches for analyzing ethical problems, but you decide that the best approach to this particular situation is Badaracco’s Right vs. Right Framework