It has been said that
business ethics are an oxymoron (Collins, 1994). This suggests that business
practice and moral behaviour do not mix. Malpractice and unethical behaviour
are rife within the business world and many assume that this is just ‘how
business works’. However, with any sort of immoral or unethical action, we must
try to understand how these decisions were made in the first place. What was
the ‘ethical reasoning’ behind them and could a more just decision have been
made? While many may dismiss good conduct, Ethics are a vital issue in today’s
day and age and hold high incentives in the business world. Henry Ford famously
said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”
Ethical Dilemma Description – shorten
business occurs when the treatment of an employee is based on grounds that do
not relate to their qualifications or performance within a job (Crane &
Matten, 2007). The civil rights act of 1964 prohibited the discrimination of a
number of minority groups within the employment setting. Over 50 years later,
workplace discrimination remains an incessant issue throughout organisations
(Cheung et al., 2016). The topic of discussion in this paper is discrimination,
misogyny and sexism within a corporate culture. Tackling Inequality is high on
the present social agenda and a reoccurring topic of report in the media is
gender inequality in the workplace. Gender inequality is a current issue in
global institutions today and many studies have found it to be embedded within
an organisations cultural environment (Stamarski & Son Hing, 2015).
Dismissal of such issues often the leads to the unethical treatment of women,
which is morally wrong.
Uber is a US-based taxi-hailing
service with secondary operations such as their Uber Eats food delivery service.
Launched originally in San Francisco in 2011, Uber was able to quickly
revolutionise the taxi industry and expand globally. Currently operating in 633
cities worldwide, Uber is now known as the world’s most valuable privately
owned company with a valuation of $68.5 billion (Business Insider, 2017). Despite
the company’s success, Uber has seen a steady rise to infamy with a range of
scandals surfacing throughout its history.
Criticism over the years include the unethical treatment of drivers,
inadequate background checks, deceptive business practices, hacking scandals
and price surging during terror attacks (The Guardian, 2017). Ethical issues
are proving a tiresome issue for the taxi technology giant, who are suffering a
string of serious public backlash after allegations of discrimination,
harassment and a sexist corporate culture were made by a former software
engineer. The chief executive, Travis Kalanick, responded to the claims,
referring to them as “abhorrent and against
everything we believe in.” (Fortune, 2017).
harassment refers to a form of discrimination that breaches the civil rights act of 1964. The Equal Employment
Opportunities Commission (EEOC) states that sexual harassment occurs where
there is unprovoked conduct actions based on gender. This conduct affect an
individual’s performance and create a hostile and offensive working environment
(EEOC, 2016). On 19th February 2017 Susan Fowler, an ex-software
engineer uploaded a blog post titled ‘One Very Strange Year at Uber’. The
2,900-word post detailed the dysfunctional and toxic behaviours present within
the organisation, as well as her experiences of sexual coarseness and
harassment. Fowler received messages containing sexual advances from her
manager. This was immediately reported to human resources. Fowler was told her
manager was a high performer, who could not fairly be punished. Faced with the
choice of receiving a poor performance review or moving teams, Fowler relocated
to a new department and heard of many similar cases of sexist behaviour involving
the same manager and the same HR negligence (The Independent, 2017).
Since its upload, the
blogpost has gone viral. Uber hired law firm Perkins Coie who are investigating
215 complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and unprofessional
behaviour (Quartz, 2017). Global companies such as Uber operating with
workforce figures in context with their scale, so there is little surprise
there have been numerous cases of complaint. Sparkes states “It
must be fought for by the HR director, because nobody else will. If the HR
director fails to do so, the organisation will be failing its people and the HR
director will also be failing in his or her responsibility” (Morton,
Newall & Sparkes, 2001). Renwick also suggests “HR managers are the guardians
of employee wellbeing” (Renwick, 2003). It is clear that Ubers HR managers have
failed in terms of protecting Fowlers wellbeing. However, Chief executive
Travis Kalanick has said that “sexism is systematic in tech” and that it is of
industry standard (The Guardian, 2017).
This is not the first case of Uber ignoring ethical
practices. Uber currently holds the lowest
ethical score of ‘F’ on the Best Business Bureau rating system and over 2400
complaints have been filed against the company (Best Business Bureau, 2017).
Thus showing that companies tolerating sexist attitudes and conduct are ranked
with some of the lowest ethical standards.
Ubers non-discrimination policy states
‘Uber prohibit discrimination based on race,
religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status,
gender identity, age or any other characteristic protected under applicable
federal or state law’ with violation leading to dismissal (Uber, 2017).
Therefore, Kalanick should adhere to these codes of conduct. Although Uber is a
dominant force within its competitive environment, can ignoring ethical
practice maintain a leadership position? Kalanicks ethical dilemma is choosing
to ignore sexual discrimination at the cost of female employees in the hope for
business growth, or address the issues in the pursuit of ethical redemption.