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Workplace Ethics: Some practical and foundational problems
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present thesis is twofold: first, to analyse some practical ethical problems that stem from the workplace and the working environment and to offer guidelines concerning how such problems can be solved; second, to illuminate how the specific nature of work and the working environment is intimately connected to the relation between the employee and the employing entity, as set forth in an employment contract, and how the form and content of such contracts are, among other things, determined by culturally and socially established ideas. The normative question to be addressed is thus: which of these ideas should be maintained? This can be seen as a second-order, or more fundamental, ethical question whose answer depends on determining which normative principles are right. An additional aim of this thesis is thus to illuminate that the contract relation has relevance to practical ethical problems in the workplace context in this second-order mode.

The thesis consists of an Introduction and five papers. In Paper I (written together with Sven Ove Hansson) we argue that employees have a prima facie right to privacy, but that this right can be overridden by competing moral principles that follow, explicitly or implicitly, from the contract of employment. A set of ethical criteria is developed and summarized in the form of a guideline for determining the moral status of infringements into workplace privacy. In Paper II these criteria are applied to three broad classes of privacy-intrusive workplace practices: (1) monitoring and surveillance, (2) genetic testing, and (3) drug testing. In relation to some scenarios on these themes, it is shown that it is possible to handle such practical ethical problems systematically by way of the proposed guideline. Paper III deals with the fact that employees are protected by health and safety standards that are less protective than those that apply to the general public. Emphasis is put on the distinction between exposure and risk, and this distinction is claimed to be a key determinant for the relevance of arguments put forward in support of such double standards. In Paper IV the nature of the contract of employment is explored from an ethical point of view. An argument is developed against the claim that (a) the individual’s freedom of decision and (b) the practice of institutional arrangements are sufficient to justify a contract of employment. Paper V questions the standpoint that the voluntariness of the contracting parties in an employment relationship has substantial value. One overarching issue concerns the meaning of voluntariness in the employment context, another, its normative importance. It is argued that it is indeterminate exactly where the line should be drawn between voluntary and non–voluntary agreements in this context. Concerning the latter issue, it is claimed that even if we were able to draw such a line, this fact does not tell us anything about the normative importance of the voluntariness condition, nor how much normative weight we should assign to the fulfilment of its conditions in the workplace context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2006. , vii, 17 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; ISSN1650-8831
Keyword [en]
Philosophy; Ethics, contract of employment, ethics, ethical criteria, health and safety standards
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4069ISBN: 91-7178-394-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-4069DiVA: diva2:10620
Public defence
2006-09-05, F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100915Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2010-09-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Privacy at work: ethical criteria
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Privacy at work: ethical criteria
2003 (English)In: Journal of Business Ethics, ISSN 0167-4544, E-ISSN 1573-0697, Vol. 42, 59-70 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

New technologies and practices, such as drug testing, genetic testing, and electronic surveillance infringe upon the privacy of workers on workplaces. We argue that employees have a prima facie right to privacy, but this right can be overridden by competing moral principles that follow, explicitly or implicitly, from the contract of employment. We propose a set of criteria for when intrusions into an employee's privacy are justified. Three types of justification are specified, namely those that refer to the employer's interests, to the interests of the employee her- or himself, and to the interests of third parties such as customers and fellow workers. For each of these three types, sub-criteria are proposed that can be used to determine whether a particular infringement into an employee's privacy is morally justified or not.

Keyword
contract of employment, drug testing, ethical criteria, ethics, genetic testing, privacy, surveillance, work
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6033 (URN)10.1023/A:1021600419449 (DOI)000179810800005 ()
Note
QC 20100915Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
2. Applying ethical criteria for privacy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Applying ethical criteria for privacy
2005 (English)In: The ethics of workplace privacy, Bryssel: P.I.E.- Peter Lang S.A. , 2005, 137-156 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bryssel: P.I.E.- Peter Lang S.A., 2005
National Category
Organic Chemistry
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6034 (URN)
Note
QC 20100915Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2010-09-15Bibliographically approved
3. Occupational and non-occupational health risks: can double standards be justified?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Occupational and non-occupational health risks: can double standards be justified?
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, ISSN 1466-8297, E-ISSN 1741-5241, Vol. 10, no 1/2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This essay considers the fact that health and safety standards allow for higher exposures in employees than the general public. The distinction between exposure and risk is proposed as a key determinant for the relevance of arguments put forward to support such double standards. The justification of 'double standards', for public and occupational (risk) exposure, is linked to two separate types of issues, namely empirical and normative ones. Whether we have reasons for accepting a double standard of protection depends on how we understand the double standard in relation to the distinction between exposures and risks, and emphasis should be placed on the need of normative support of double standards concerning risks. The relation between work-related risks and occupation is discussed and analysed, and it is argued that arguments for double standards of risks are linked to certain activities rather than to employment or occupation.

National Category
Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6035 (URN)
Note
QC 20111219Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
4. The contract of employment: ethical dimensions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The contract of employment: ethical dimensions
2006 (English)In: Journal of Business Ethics, ISSN 0167-4544, E-ISSN 1573-0697, Vol. 66, no 4, 407-415 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, the nature of the contract of employment is explored from an ethical point of view. It is argued that certain normative arguments should be taken into account in order to justify such a contract. Furthermore, an argument is developed against the claim that (a) the individual's freedom of decision and (b) the practice of institutional arrangements are sufficient to justify a contract of employment. The dimensional analysis offered shows that further conditions are needed: (a) must be elaborated and interpreted to the extent that this condition is not sufficient - rather sub-criteria regarding the agent's state of knowledge must be met; and (b) should be supplemented by a demand for fairness. A tentative analysis of existing work contracts is the starting point for the ethical analysis. The aim is to show what a legitimate, or reasonable, contract of employment will require. Finally, some important normative implications and consequences regarding the contract's normative status are discussed.

Keyword
contract of employment; ethics, ethical justification, freedom of decision, institutional arrangements, voluntariness, work
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6036 (URN)10.1007/s10551-006-0022-5 (DOI)000240056500007 ()
Note
QC 20100915Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
5. The employment relation: the meaning and importance of voluntariness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The employment relation: the meaning and importance of voluntariness
2007 (English)In: Business Ethics in Focus, New York: Nova Science Publishers , 2007Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2007
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6037 (URN)1-60021-684-6 (ISBN)
Note
QC 20100915Available from: 2006-08-07 Created: 2006-08-07 Last updated: 2010-09-15Bibliographically approved

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