Importance of Work Ethics in Navigating Ethical Dilemmas

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Updated: Aug 29, 2023
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Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace

Ethical dilemmas arise when legal and ethical issues come into play in the workplace. In this case with Lavonda, things started to escalate over a general period from when she first started. As time goes by, these issues start to pile on top of each other and cause a slew of different conflicts and problems.

Lavonda’s Rising Career and Relationships

Lavonda is characterized as having a very effective and efficient work ethic. She has a head start on her pharmaceutical career because she is only three and a half years out of college, and she has already earned a management career.

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With that being noted, she has yet to experience any issues and conflicts since she has only worked for one company before Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals.

The first ethical issue is formed between Lavonda and Allen, who is her immediate supervisor. This all started when Allen helped her find a nice house in a good neighborhood and helped her move in. This was the catalyst that slowly started to build an intimate relationship between the two. So serious that they even began to discuss living arrangements with each other. The reason for this being the first ethical issue was that the relationship was not disclosed within the company, and no one really knew about it. Having a relationship in the workplace can eventually lead to a conflict of interest. Not only with Lavonda cause a conflict of interest, but she could use their personal relationship to her advantage to get promotions and work her way up the ladder to excel in her professional career, which is very unethical.

Karline’s Controversial Promotion

The second ethical issue also has to do with conflict of interest and a very similar issue that Lavonda is in right now. Karline, who is an employee of Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals, also had a relationship with Allen which the company was unaware of. There is a difference between Lavonda’s relationship with Allen and Karline’s relationship with Allen. The difference is that what Karline did was very unethical because she used their relationship to gain promotion to the head of the Human Resource Department when she had only worked there a few short months before Lavonda. This can hurt the company because Karline will not have the experience or knowledge to run the HR department and deal with certain problems like the one Lavonda is facing.

Lavonda’s Predicament and Allen’s Continued Harassment

The main ethical and legal issue, in this case, is the relationship between Lavonda and Allen. When Karline got her promotion as head of HR, rumors started to arise of Allen “helping” her get that promotion. As six months passed, Lavonda learned that these rumors were most likely true and that they were very similar to what Lavonda had been experiencing with Allen; helping to look for a house, being friendly, and possible intimacy. She decided to confront Allen about it because the rumors got intense. Lavonda confronts Allen, and he verifies that the rumors are true; she ends the relationship as things get heated, but Allen fails to understand that their relationship is over. As weeks went by with barely any contact between them, Allen stopped by her office to apologize for the way he was acting, and she accepted the apology assuming that things were fixed and everything was okay now.

The next day Allen stopped by her office and began to touch and even grope Lavonda. She tried to make a joke of it and not take it too seriously to defuse the situation. Several days later, Allen continuously repeated the same behavior with physical contact and made some sexual remarks. The way Lavonda handled the problem on the first encounter might have fueled it all because Allen only took it as a joke and thought that she did not mind and continued to only get worst. She gets upset and tells Allen that he has crossed the line and that if he ever does it again, she is going to take it to Human Resources.

At this point, Allen is bullying Lavonda in the workplace, which is against the company’s code of conduct. Allen is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII, which is to prevent workplace discrimination against workers on their race, color, sex, religion, and ethnicity. When Lavonda was sexually assaulted by Allen, he broke the company policy, which is an ethical issue, but he also broke the law making this an illegal issue.

As the days passed by, Allen sexually assaulted Lavonda again and made even more vulgar sexual remarks to her. She had made it clear to him that she was uncomfortable with what he was doing and even said that she would report him to HR, but Allen did not care. The reason for him not caring was that he knew that when Lavonda goes to Karline to report the situation that she would not do anything against Allen because he would blackmail Karline and remind her of how she got that promotion. As Allen’s unethical decisions and actions became a daily routine, it made Lavonda’s work environment very hostile, and it reflected her work ethic from being efficient and effective to not being able to focus on her work and doing poorly.

Reporting to Human Resources and Karline’s Response

The harassment that Lavonda was taking from Allen got too overwhelming that she finally went to Human Resources to talk about the issue and report it. At this point, another ethical issue arises as the previous mention of Karline and a conflict of interest comes into play. Lavonda asserts the sexual harassment and discrimination that she has to deal with from Allen. She states that it is hindering her work performance, and she believes she is getting poor evaluations because she is turning down Allen and his sexual encouragement. She also claims that Allen insisted that she could change her poor evaluations if she just gave in to all of his sexual statements.

The way Karline responded to all of this had Lavonda in shock. Karline avoided the statement that Lavonda gave by putting the blame on Lavonda for not disclosing her early relationship with Allen at the beginning of the company. Karline also noted that Lavonda could be fired due to this. All of Allen’s sexual statements and harassment were either through the phone or face to face, so Karline said that Lavonda did not have any tangible evidence to prove that Allen was doing all these things, and they could not be taken seriously. The way Karline is handling the situation is very unethical because she does not want to lose her position as head of HR. Also, what Lavonda did at the beginning of not disclosing her relationship with Allen is very unethical of her, and she now realizes her mistakes.

The way Karline handled Lavonda’s remarks was excessively unethical for various reasons. The first reason is that she might not see this as being severe because she has experienced all of this with Allen, which led to her promotion. The second reason is that she might be jealous or mad at Lavonda for having a relationship with Allen. And the last reason could be that Karline is not professionally suited and trained for the position of the head of HR because the reason why she got the position in the first place was that her relationship with Allen only worked there for a few short months, and is now the head of HR. It is Karline’s duty and responsibility to minimize liability from the company, and she is failing to do so by leaving an unsolved ethical and legal issue to just pile up and get worst. Not only is she harming the company, but she is also damaging her reputation if something were to come out about Lavonda seeking help and not finding a true answer.

There are ways that Karline could’ve handled the situation. Even though there was no tangible proof of the sexual harassment, she could’ve started an investigation on Allen by questioning Allen or keeping an eye on him. This could’ve minimized the liability for Emma-Action Pharmaceutical, and it could’ve backed up Karline’s reputation being the head of HR, so if all of this issue comes out that she at least tried to resolve it by doing something like questioning Allen. But she did nothing to help Lavonda besides making it seem like it all started with Lavonda.

Since Lavonda realizes that Karline is not going to help her, more ethical issues arise as Allen continuously threatens her. He talks about Lavonda’s mother on how she isn’t doing too well and that the cost of treating cancer can be expensive, thus knowing that Lavonda really needs this job more than anything to help her mother out. He appeals to her emotions and blackmails her by making it clear that she must adhere to what he wants to keep her mother out of a nursing home. What Allen is doing in the workplace is bullying Lavonda, which is an ethical issue.

Potential Solutions for Lavonda

As Lavonda waits to meet with the vice president of ethical affairs for Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals, she must face a tough make-or-break decision regarding what she should tell the vice president and what actions she will take. There are a few options that Lavonda must choose from, and she will have to weigh the pros and cons of each. Some may be more ethical than others, but in the end, Lavonda’s decision will impact not only her professional career but also her private life.

One feasible course of action would be to tell the vice president of ethical affairs the entire truth about what happened when she first started at the company. This includes telling the story of the relationship with Allen and how it all started. She knows that this could risk losing her job. But she would also be able to talk about Allen’s relationship with Karline. And, of course, she would have to mention all the sexual harassment and assault that Allen has been doing. She will also have to state how she tried to reach out for help with the HR department but felt she was left ignored and betrayed by the company.

This option would be a mix of a value-based and principal decision. Making this decision would be following the rules of the company without risking any more untruthful or unwilling actions. The other reason would be that it goes along with Lavonda’s values of wanting to be a good, virtuous person with a secure character. As a result, from making this decision, Lavonda could possibly get fired for not disclosing her relationship with Allen, but she might also not get fired because this is not the first time an undisclosed relationship within the company, but Lavonda is shedding light on the matter so that the vice president can be more aware of other similar issues that could arise. On a personal level with her private life, she would risk having to put her mother in a nursing home due to losing her stop, but she could also lose her chance of a job within a different company since this would be on her report and companies tend to contact previous employers to see how their work ethics were applied in their previous employment.

Another alternative course of action would be for both Lavonda and Karline to talk to the vice president together. They could tell them how Allen acts toward both in their previous relationships with him and how he tries to use them for sexual favors. This would then have Allen in the hot seat for not disclosing the relationships to the company, and they would see this as a concurring problem and do something about it with Allen. But of course, this would only be a feasible option if Karline was willing to come out also.

By doing this, both Lavonda and Karline could prevent them from losing their jobs. The decision would be based on the consequences since Allen was the first one to approach the ladies and start a problem later. This course of action would be considered a utilitarian approach because they determine right from wrong due to the possible outcome. On a professional level, Lavonda would no longer be sexually assaulted, harassed, or bullied, and she would be able to increase her job performance for what she was so well known for, thus keeping her job. On a personal level, with her private life, she would be able to continue to support her mother, who is fighting cancer, and keep her out of a nursing home.

The Impact on Stakeholders

Stakeholders are an important part of any company, including Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals. If word got out about how Lavonda was sexually harassed, the company would face negative remarks for just letting this kind of harassment going on within the company. Questions will arise as to why the company did not try to stop this in the early stage, and then people will question Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals’ ethical guidelines and policy and if they really imply it in the workplace. Then the workers of the company would get questioned by the media as to how they just let something like this happen going unnoticed.

The customers of Emma-Action Pharmaceuticals are stakeholders. They are the ones who help bring in profit and margin for the company. Once the workers find out what has been happening, they may not have the desire to work there anymore because they do not tolerate being around an environment like that. They would then quit, and Emma-Actions Pharmaceutical would not be able to employ people because of the bad reputation they have on them now for letting sexual harassment go unaware in the workplace, thus causing them to raise the prices of their products.

Allen is also a stakeholder. He chooses to sexually harass and blackmail other employees, which then hurts his reputation, causing him to probably not find a job anywhere else. Karline is also a stakeholder. Everything could have ended if she had correctly defused the situation when Lavonda brought light to what was happening. But now, when people find out that Lavonda tried to come to her for help that she basically turned her away and did not do what she was supposed to do as the head of HR, thus showing that Karline is incapable of the position and should’ve not gotten the promotion to be the head of HR in the first place.

In the end, the biggest stakeholder who will have the biggest impact on all of this is Lavonda and her mother. Not only was Lavonda being affected in her professional life, but she was taking a strain on her own private life. She will be mentally and physically exhausted after being with Emma-Actions Pharmaceutical. Lavonda was in a situation where she had to risk losing her job to stand against her sexual assault or stay quiet so that she could care for her mother.

Concluding Thoughts on Ethical Issues

In conclusion, this case portrays many ethical issues and dilemmas. It was caused by the misunderstanding and lack of communication between the company and employers. Lavonda was new to the company; thus, she did not know the unwritten rules and chain-of-command philosophy. She could’ve disclosed the relationship to the company to prevent any of this from happening, but she was unaware of the situation at the time. All she can do now is help prevent this from happening with anyone else, and it starts with Soo-Chin, the new sales rep she just hired because Allen wants her to assign her to him, which is a red flag of repetitiveness because Allen might try to do what he did to Karline and Lavonda to Soo-Chin.


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Importance of Work Ethics in Navigating Ethical Dilemmas. (2023, Jun 19). Retrieved from