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  This module is a resource for lecturers  

 

Case studies

 

Choose one or more of the following case studies and lead a discussion which allows students to address and debate issues of integrity, ethics and law. If time allows, let the students vote on which case studies they want to discuss.

For lecturers teaching large classes, case studies with multiple parts and different methods of solution lend themselves well to the group size and energy in such an environment. Lecturers can begin by having students vote on which case study they prefer. Lecturers could break down analysis of the chosen case study into steps which appear to students in sequential order, thereby ensuring that larger groups stay on track. Lecturers may instruct students to discuss questions in a small group without moving from their seat, and nominate one person to speak for the group if called upon. There is no need to provide excessive amounts of time for group discussion, as ideas can be developed further with the class as a whole. Lecturers can vary the group they call upon to encourage responsive participation.

Case study 1

A manufacturing company provides jobs for many people in a small town where employment is not easy to find. The company has stayed in the town even though it could find cheaper workers elsewhere, because workers are loyal to the company due to the jobs it provides. Over the years, the company has developed a reputation in the town for taking care of its employees and being a responsible corporate citizen.

The manufacturing process used by the company produces a by-product that for years has flown into the town river. The by-product has been considered harmless but some people who live near the river have reported illnesses. The by-product does not currently violate any anti-pollution laws.

What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options does the company have, and what should it do and why? 

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the issues raised by this case study include the factors and decisions that led to the current situation, such as worker loyalty caused by scarce employment and the power the company holds over the town; whether the company is acting consistently with its reputation as a good corporate citizen and whether not doing so affects its integrity; the ethics of companies compared to persons, and whether companies should have more or fewer obligations and why; whether and why the company should take action even though the by-product does not violate any laws, and if it should take action, whether the company should establish criteria for helping it decide when to address complaints that do not raise illegal actions. Is there a problem with the current state of the law, and if there is, can the company use that to justify non-action?

 

Case study 2

A woman died recently, after a short, unhappy life. She wanted her ashes to be scattered in the ocean near a place she lived during one of the brief happy times of her adult life. Her parents and immediate family had already passed away, so she discussed her wishes with her mother-in-law, who said she would comply with her daughter-in-law's wishes. In her will, the woman gave control of her estate to the mother-in-law. The will stated that the woman's ashes should be scattered in the ocean, as described above. Instead, her mother-in-law buried the ashes in a family plot near her home, because she wanted to keep the ashes close to her because of her own grief.

Assume that the mother-in-law is legally required to follow the wishes stated in the will, but that no one will check and it is very unlikely that the mother-in-law will have any problem with the law. What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options does the mother-in-law have, and what should she do and why?

(Adapted from an article in the New York Times .)

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the issues raised by this case study include whether the mother-in-law is acting ethically and with integrity; the relevance of her promise to her daughter-in-law, and whether the promise is still relevant after the daughter-in-law dies; the impact of the law on the mother-in-law, and what difference it makes that the mother-in-law's illegal activity is not likely to be discovered.

 

Case study 3

An undergraduate course required for graduation has a reputation for being extremely hard to pass, much harder than similar courses. When posting materials to the class website, the teacher accidently posts a test with answers indicated at the end. The teacher notices the error immediately and deletes the test, but before she does so a student downloads the test. The website does not allow the teacher to see whether the test was downloaded, and because she deleted the test with the answers so quickly, the teacher later uploaded the same test without the answers and required students to take the test. The Student Code of Ethics prohibits students from taking a test when there is reason for them to believe they have confidential information regarding the answers to a test they are not supposed to have. Violations of the Student Code of Ethics are punishable.

What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options do the teacher and the student have, and what should they do and why?

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the issues raised in this case study include the reasons why the teacher reposted the same test; the undue difficulty of the course, and whether that or the teacher's actions justify a student who uses the answers accidentally disclosed by the teacher; the relationship between ethical concerns and the Student Code of Ethics; and the relationship of the student to the teacher and fellow students, and the effect the student's actions may have on fellow students. Lecturers can also see the Key Issues section for an extended discussion of this case study.

 

Case study 4

A woman is sexually harassed by a top-level senior executive in a large company. She sues the company, and during settlement discussions she is offered an extremely large monetary settlement. In the agreement, the woman is required to confirm that the executive did nothing wrong, and after the agreement is signed the woman is prohibited from discussing anything about the incident publicly. Before the date scheduled to sign the settlement agreement, the woman's lawyer mentions that she has heard the executive has done this before, and the settlement amount is very large because the company probably had a legal obligation to dismiss the executive previously. The company however wants to keep the executive because he is a big money maker for the company.

What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options does the woman have, and what should she do and why?

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the issues raised by this case study include initial issues of unethical and unlawful conduct, by the executive and the company; whether the company should allow the executive to continue working because of the revenue he generates, in view of his propensity to harm co-workers, and whether this action is ethical or reflects integrity; whether the company should require the woman to state that the executive did nothing wrong as part of the settlement agreement; whether the woman should agree to this settlement in view of the harm future employees are being exposed to; and whether the woman is prioritising justice for herself over harm to future employees in an acceptable way.

 

Case study 5

A country with a history of corruption and bribery has made great efforts via education and prosecution to conduct government business in an open and fair way. The country has made considerable progress. As part of its reform, the country overhauled its visa procedures for foreigners wanting to live in the country. In the previous corrupt environment, people with money would secretly pay off a government employee to have their visa application approved quickly, while other visa applications took much longer. Now the government has made the application procedure transparent and established a new procedure in law. The new procedure offers two visa tracks, the "Regular Track", which does not require any payment, and the "Premium Track", which requires a US $10,000 payment. The Regular Track takes just as long to process a visa application as an application without a bribe took before the reforms. The Premium Track moves along just as quickly as a visa application with a bribe took before the reforms. Most people wanting to immigrate to the country cannot afford the Premium Track.

What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options does the country have, and what should it do and why?

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the questions raised by this case study include how the issue first arose, what stakeholders are involved and what power they have or don't have; whether the current arrangement is ethical; how the integrity and ethics of countries are similar and different from those of people, and whether the country is acting or should act with integrity; whether the current arrangement legalizes an essentially unfair arrangement, and if so, how that affects people's view of the law.

 

Case study 6

An international soft drink company has a signature soft drink that it sells all over the world. In India, the version of the soft drink complies with Indian food and health regulations, but is less healthy than the drink sold in the European market where the law is stricter. The soft drink company is obeying the law in India, but it is selling an inferior, less healthy product in a developing country.

What are the issues of integrity, ethics and law posed in the case study? What options does the soft drink company and the government of India have, and what should they do and why?

Lecturer Guidelines

Some of the questions raised by this case study include how the issue first arose, including globalization, and why the company and the country would benefit and not benefit from the current position; whether the company and country are acting ethically, with integrity, and consistent with law; the role that consumers in India and elsewhere play in this case study; and the different approaches the company could take to health standards, e.g. establishing its own standard to meet even if that standard exceeds what is required in a particular country.

 

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