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Ethical problems in work and working environment contexts
KTH, Superseded Departments, Infrastructure.
2004 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This thesis identifies and systematizes two categories ofpractical problems that stem from work and working environmentcontexts: workplace privacy and occupational health risks. Thefocus of the discussion is on ethical justification. Do we havereason to accept a certain level of (potential) harm toemployees by virtue of the fact that they are employees, and ifso, under what circumstances? The thesis consists of a briefintroduction and three essays.

InEssayI, it is argued that employees have a prima facieright to privacy, but that this right can be overridden bycompeting moral principles that follow, explicitly orimplicitly, from the contract of employment. Three types ofjustification are specified: those that refer to the employer'sinterests, those that refer to the interests of the employee,and those that refer to the interests of third parties. A setof ethical criteria is developed and used in the subsequentessay to determine the moral status of infringement ofworkplace privacy.

InEssayII, these criteria are applied to three broadcategories of intrusive workplace practices: (1) monitoring andsurveillance, (2) genetic testing, and (3) drug testing.Scenarios are used to show that such practical ethical problemscan be handled systematically using proposed guidelines. It isalso shown that some practices are dubious and at least some ofthem can be replaced by less intrusive means of ensuring thedesired outcome, for instance efficiency or safety in aworkplace.

EssayIII deals with the fact that health and safetystandards for employees are less protective than those thatapply to the public. Emphasis is put on the distinction betweenexposure and risk, and this distinction is claimed to be a keyfactor in the relevance of arguments in favour of such doublestandards. The analysis of 'double standards' for public andoccupational exposure to risk aims to show that a justificationof such standards is closely linked to two separate types ofissues, namely empirical and normative issues. It is claimedthat this kind of differentiation seems to be supported neitherby a reasonable conception of the contract of employment nor byany obvious ethical principle that is applicable to workplacesor work situations in general.

Key words:Contract of employment, double standards,drug testing, ethics, ethical justification, exposure, genetictesting, health and safety standards, privacy, surveillance,risks, work, work environment

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Infrastruktur , 2004. , viii, 12 p.
Theses in Risk and Safety from the Division of Philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1654-627X
Keyword [en]
contract of employment, double standards, drug testing. ethics, ethical justification, exposure, genetic testing, health and safety standards, privacy, surveillance, risks, work, work environment
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-1741ISBN: 91-7283-721-7OAI: diva2:7714
Available from: 2004-06-28 Created: 2004-06-28 Last updated: 2012-03-21

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