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Assignment Questions

The ethical character traits 

Access to the Lexis-Nexis legal database might be beneficial for this work.


Special Directions for Cases 1?5: The following cases have been carefully chosen to represent several of the most pressing ethical dilemmas facing American business today. When answering the questions at the end of each case, consider the ethical charactertrait or traits that would guide your decision making. Avoid the theory of subjective ethics. Be less concerned with the ?right? answer and more concerned with applying the ethical decision-making process properly.

1. Howard Wieder, an attorney, asked the members of the law firm for which he was employed, to assign one of their number to act as his representative in negotiating the purchase of an apartment in a condominium. An attorney in the firm, L.L., was designated to handle Wieder?s negotiations. Unfortunately, L.L. did everything but handle Wieder?s condominium negotiations. In fact, he not only neglected the negotiations, but also made many ?false and misleading representations,? carefully calculated to cover up that neglect. As soon as Wieder figured out that L.L. was lying to him, he reported the misconduct to two senior attorneys in the law firm. Each of these senior attorneys admitted that L.L.?s misconduct did not surprise them. Moreover, they revealed that they knew ?(t)hat [L.L.] was a pathological liar and that [L.L.] had previously lied to [members of the firm] regarding the status of other pending legal matters.? What ethical character traitshave the senior attorneys violated? Explain. Wieder v. Skala, 609 N.E.2d 105 (NY).

2. In 1994, a total of 125 midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis were suspected of being involved in a cheating scandal that affected the results of an electrical engineering examination. A civilian panel was convened to investigate the allegations of cheating. The honor code of the Naval Academy is based on the premise that officers in the United States Navy should not lie, cheat, or steal. Clearly, if the 125 midshipmen accused of cheating really did so, they violated the ethical character traits of honesty, integrity, and fairness. However, what about those midshipmen who knew about the cheating but did nothing to stop it or report it later? Were they obligated to step forward and inform their superiors of the activities of their fellow students? Would protecting fellow students violate or support the ethical character traits? Explain.

3. Mares worked as a benefit clerk for Longmont Foods. Longmont decided to institute a drug testing program for its employees in 1989. The company asked all employees to fill out a form indicating what medication they were on at the time. The form also asked the employees to identify the physician who had prescribed the medication. Mares refused to disclose the information. As a result she was discharged. Was such a discharge ethical? What character traits did the company violate by firing Mares? Did Mares follow or violate any of the ethical character traits in her refusal to provide what she saw as essentially private information? Explain. Mares v. Conagra Poultry Co., Inc., 773 F.2d 248 (CO).

4. In 1986, a postdoctoral fellow named Margot O?Toole was working in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). O?Toole was troubled by some inconsistencies in the data that appeared in an article published by the journal Cell. The article had been written by O?Toole?s superior, Thereza Imanishi-Kari. Later, O?Toole discovered seventeen pages of research notes filed in the wrong place. The hidden notes that she had uncovered indicated to her that the research data she had in hand did not support the results that her superior had said she reached in the published paper in Cell. To make matters more difficult for O?Toole, one of the principal coauthors of the paper was David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. What should O?Toole have done with her suspicions? Explain.

5. Adding fraudulent information on resumes and job applications has become commonplace in this country today. One survey indicated that almost 75 percent of all resumes include at least some data that is not true. Some people argue that it is permissible to include exaggerations and falsehoods in resumes and job applications because ?nobody is hurt? by this practice. Moreover, others believe that the end justifies the means. In other words, if the false information secures a job, then the use of that information is ethically correct. Still others point to the 75 percent figure and say that it?s justifiable to include false information on resumes and applications because ?everyone does it.? Explain how the practice of adding false information to resumes violates the ethical character traits.

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