Jane had just been hired as the head of the payroll department at R&S Electronic Service Company, a firm of 75 employees. She had been hired by Eddie, the general manager, who had informed her of the need for maintaining strict confidentiality regarding employee salaries and pay scales. He had also told her that he had fired the previous payroll department head for breaking that confidentiality by discussing employee salaries. She had also been formally introduced to Brad, the owner, who had told her to see him if she had any questions or problems. Both Brad and Eddie had made her feel welcome.
GREG’S HIGH COMMISSIONS
After three months of employment, Jane began to wonder why Greg, a service technician and Eddie’s brother, made so much more in commissions than the other service technicians. She assumed that he must be highly qualified and must work rapidly because she had overheard Brad commending Greg on his performance on several occasions. She had also noticed Brad, Eddie, and Greg having lunch together frequently. One day, Eddie gave Jane the stack of work tickets for the service technicians for the upcoming week. The technicians were to take whatever ticket was on top when they finished the job they were working on. After putting the tickets where they belonged, Jane remembered that she had a doctor’s appointment the next morning and returned to Eddie’s office to tell him she would be reporting late for work.
EDDIE SHOWS FAVORITISM
When she entered Eddie’s office, she saw Eddie give Greg a separate stack of work tickets. As she stood there, Eddie told her that if she mentioned this to anyone, he would fire her. Jane was upset, because she understood that Eddie was giving the easier, high-commission work to his brother. Jane also realized that Eddie had the authority to hire and fire her. Because she had been at the company for only a short time, she was still on probation. This was her first job since college. She wondered what she should do.
Questions for Discussion
1. What are the ethical issues in this case?
2. Is a family business different from other types of businesses with respect to employee treatment?
3. What was Jane’s ethical dilemma?
4. What should Jane have done? Why?