Develop An Ethics Policy

By Rhonda Abrams

Most companies, especially large corporations, now develop clear ethics guidelines and policies. Because employees are faced with many situations that have ethical implications, it's extremely useful to have a set of clear, consistent policies — on issues like respecting customer confidentiality or receiving gifts, gratuities, or special favors that are firmly and fairly enforced throughout the company. If you're doing business internationally, you'll also face issues of local laws or culture. How do you expect your employees to behave in those situations?

New technological developments present new ethical challenges. It's much easier to accumulate, buy, and share data on customers. Technology also makes it simple, cheap, and even inviting to copy others' copyrighted works, including software, music, data, or written work. Make sure you're clear on intellectual property issues, and check with your attorney if you're unsure about issues relating to copyright.

When you're developing your ethics policy, be sure to consider the following:

Legal dealings. How will you ensure that your company obeys the laws not only of your home country, but also of other countries where you do business?

Employees. How will you ensure that you and your managers treat employees fairly, honestly, and with respect? How will you make sure subcontractors act ethically? What guidelines will you establish for the personal use of company property, such as company cars, phones, and e-mail?

Customers. What actions will you take to deal honestly with customers? How will you ensure truth in advertising? How will you instruct employees to deal with gifts, special favors, meals, etc. from customers or vendors?

Community. How will your company take into account the impact of its actions on the community?

Environment. How will your company take into account the impact of its actions on the environment, including its choice of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and waste disposal?

In virtually all situations, it's illegal to discriminate against employees because of race, religion, sex, or national origin. In many situations, it's illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, physical disability, or sexual orientation, too. You may not discriminate in hiring, promotion, pay, or treatment. Moreover, it's your responsibility as an employer to create an environment that isn't hostile to any individual or group based on such factors. You must also make "reasonable accommodation" to employees' religious observance needs, such as allowing them time off on their sabbaths or holy days or to wear articles of religious attire (unless there's a significant safety concern). Ask your attorney about conforming to regulations laid out in the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other anti-discrimination laws.


Copyright Information
Title: Develop an Ethics Policy
Author: Rhonda Abrams
Certain materials herein are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright law and have been prepared according to the educational multimedia fair use guidelines and are restricted from further use. This work may be protected by further copyright, reproduction and distribution in violation of United States Copyright Law is prohibited.