Sandra White operated a travel agency. To obtain lower airline fares for her nonmilitary clients, she booked military-rate travel by forwarding fake military identification cards to the airlines.
The government charged White with identity theft, which requires the “use” of another’s identification. The trial court had two cases that represented precedents. In the first case, David Miller obtained a loan to buy land by representing that certain investors had approved the loan when, in fact, they had not. Miller’s conviction for identity theft was overturned because he had merely said that the investors had done something when they had not. According to the court, this was not the “use” of another’s identification. In the second case, Kathy Medlock, an ambulance service operator, had transported patients when there was no medical necessity to do so. To obtain payment, Medlock had forged a physician’s signature. The court concluded that this was “use” of another person’s identity. [United States v. White, 846 F.3d 170 (6th Cir. 2017)] (See Sources of American Law.)
(a) Which precedent—the Miller case or the Medlock case— is similar to White’s situation, and why?
(b) In the two cases cited by the court, were there any ethical differences in the actions of the parties? Explain your answer.
Bentley Bay Retail, LLC, filed a suit in a Florida state court against Soho Bay Restaurant, LLC, and against its corporate officers, Luiz and Karine Queiroz, in their individual capacities. Bentley Bay claimed that the Queirozes had breached their personal guaranty for Soho Bay’s debt to Bentley Bay. The plaintiff filed notices with the court to depose the Queirozes, who resided in Brazil. The Queirozes argued that they could not be deposed in Brazil. The court ordered them to appear in Florida to provide depositions in their corporate capacity. Witnesses appearing in court outside the jurisdiction of their residence are immune from service of process while in court. On the Queirozes’ appearance in Florida, can they be served with process in their individual capacities? Explain. [Queiroz v. Bentley Bay Retail, LLC, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D85, 237 So.3d 1108 (3 Dist. 2018)] (See Pretrial Procedures.)
Corporate Social Responsibility. Methamphetamine (meth) is an addictive drug made chiefly in small toxic labs (STLs) in homes, tents, barns, and hotel rooms. The manufacturing process is dangerous, often resulting in explosions, burns, and toxic fumes. Government entities spend time and resources to find and destroy STLs, imprison meth dealers and users, treat addicts, and provide services for affected families. Meth cannot be made without ingredients that are also used in cold and allergy medications. Arkansas has one of the highest numbers of STLs in the United States. To recoup the costs of fighting the meth epidemic, twenty counties in Arkansas filed a suit against Pfizer, Inc., which makes cold and allergy medications. They argued that it was Pfizer’s ethical responsibility to either stop using the ingredients in their cold and allergy medications that can be used to make meth or to compensate the government for the amount it spends closing down meth labs. (See Ethics and the Role of Business, Ethical Principles and Philosophies, and Making Ethical Business Decisions.)
(a) The first group will outline Pfizer’s ethical responsibility under the corporate social responsibility doctrine. To whom does Pfizer owe duties?
(b) The second group will formulate an argument on behalf of Pfizer that the company has not breached any of its ethical responsibilities.
(c) The third group will assume that they work for Pfizer and that the company is trying to determine the best course of action to prevent its medications from being used to make meth. The group will apply the IDDR approach and explain the steps in the reasoning used.
(d) The fourth group will adopt a utilitarian point of view and perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine what the company should do. Specifically, should the company pay compensation to the state, or should it stop using certain ingredients in its medications?
Priscilla Dickman worked as a medical technologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center for twenty-eight years. Early in her career at the Health Center, Dickman sustained a back injury while at work. The condition eventually worsened, causing her significant back pain and disability. Her physician ordered restrictions on her work duties for several years. Then Dickman’s supervisor received complaints that Dickman was getting personal phone calls and was frequently absent from her work area. Based on e-mails and other documents found on her work computer, it appeared that she had been running two side businesses (selling jewelry and providing travel agent services) while at work. The state investigated, and she was convicted of a civil ethics violation for engaging in “personal business for financial gain on state time utilizing state resources.” Separate investigations resulted in criminal convictions for forgery and the filing of an unrelated fraudulent insurance claim. Dickman “retired” from her job (after she obtained approval for disability retirement) and filed a claim with the state of Connecticut against the health center. She alleged that her former employer had initiated the investigations to harass her and force her to quit. She claimed that the Health Center was unlawfully retaliating against her for being disabled and being put on workplace restrictions. [ Dickman v. University of Connecticut Health Center, 162 Conn.App. 441, 132 A.3d 739 (2016)] ( See Making Ethical Business Decisions.)
(a) Assume that you are Dickman’s supervisor and have been informed that she is frequently away from her desk and often makes personal phone calls. The first step of using the IDDR method is inquiry, so you start asking questions. Several people tell you that that Dickman has offered to sell them jewelry. Others say she has offered to make travel arrangements for them. You have not spoken to Dickman directly about the complaints and are not sure if you should. You also know that the Health Center would need more evidence of wrongdoing to justify firing Dickman but are uncertain as to whether you can search her computer. Should you report your findings to management? Is there any ethical problem involved in investigating and possibly firing a long-term employee? Is it fair to terminate an employee who is under disability restrictions? How would you frame the ethical dilemma that the Health Center faced in this case, and who are the stakeholders? What ethical theories would you use to guide your decision?
(b) Now suppose that you are Dickman. You have been a medical technologist for a long time but now experience severe back pain while at your desk at the Health Center. You find that you have less pain if you get up and move around during the day, rather than just sitting. That is why you are often away from your desk. You know that you will not be able to do this job much longer, and that is why you recently started a jewelry business and began providing travel services. Sure, you have made a few personal phone calls related to those businesses while at the Health Center, but other employees make personal calls, and they have not been fired. You feel that the Health Center’s investigation was intended to force you to quit because you are disabled and cannot perform the tasks that you used to perform. Using the inquiry portion of the IDDR method, how might you frame the ethical issue you face, and who are the stakeholders? What ethical principles can help you analyze the problem thoroughly?
Mark Clapp and Albert DiBrito worked for the Public Safety Department (PSD) in St. Joseph, Michigan. Clapp was the director, and DiBrito was the deputy director. They were under the supervision of the city manager. One day, Clapp told Tom Vaught, a PSD employee, that the previous city manager had hired DiBrito only because DiBrito had been investigating the city manager for possible wrongdoing. Clapp said that DiBrito had dropped his investigation in exchange for the deputy director position. DiBrito learned of Clapp’s statement and filed a formal complaint against him on another matter with Richard Lewis, the current city manager. The investigation that followed revealed management problems within the PSD. A consultant hired by the city concluded that Clapp’s remarks about DiBrito had been “inappropriate statements for a commanding officer to make regarding a second in charge.” However, the consultant also identified issues regarding DiBrito’s “honesty, inappropriate statements to subordinates regarding a commanding officer, favoritism, and retaliation.” How do a manager’s attitudes and actions affect a workplace? What steps do you think Lewis could take to prevent future ethical misconduct? [DiBrito v. City of St. Joseph, 675 Fed.Appx. 593 (6th Cir. 2017)] (See Ethics and the Role of Business.)
John McAdams is a tenured professor of political science at Marquette University. McAdams posted a comment on his blog criticizing Cheryl Abbate, a philosophy instructor, for her interchange with a student in her Theory of Ethics class. Lynn Turner, also a member of the faculty, expressed a negative opinion of McAdams’s comment in a letter to the Marquette Tribune. Meanwhile, on Abbate’s complaint, the university convened the Faculty Hearing Committee (FHC)—which consists entirely of faculty members, including Turner—to consider the case. Acting on the FHC’s recommendation, Marquette suspended McAdams for a semester without pay and ordered him to apologize to Abbate. He refused, and filed a suit in a Wisconsin state court against Marquette. [McAdams v. Marquette University, 383 Wis.2d 358, 914 N.W.2d 708 (2018)] (See Alternative Dispute Resolution.)
(a) Apply the IDDR approach to consider the ethics of Marquette’s convening of the FHC in McAdams’s case.
(b) From a legal perspective, was the university’s disciplinary procedure the functional equivalent of arbitration, limiting McAdams’s right to litigate his claim in court? Explain.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. sold a ceramic pot, called the “FireBurners” Pot, with a stainless steel fuel reservoir at its center and a bottle of gelled fuel called “FireGel.” A red sticker on the fire pot warned, “DON’T REFILL UNTIL FLAME IS OUT & CUP IS COOL.” “CARE AND USE INSTRUCTIONS” with the product cautioned, in a “WARNINGS” section, “Do not add fuel when lit and never pour gel on an open fire or hot surface.” The label on the back of the fuel gel bottle instructed, “NEVER add fuel to a burning fire,” and under a bold “WARNING” stated, “DANGER, FLAMMABLE LIQUID & VAPOR.” M.H., a minor, was injured when a fire pot in one of the products—bought from Bed Bath & Beyond—was refueled with the gel and an explosion occurred. Safer alternatives for the design of the fire pot existed, but its manufacturer chose not to use them. In these circumstances, is Bed Bath & Beyond ethically responsible for the injury to M.H.? Discuss. [M.H. v. Bed, Bath & Beyond, Inc., 156 A.D.3d 33, 64 N.Y.S.3d 205 (1 Dept. 2017)] (See Ethics and the Role of Business.)
Wandering Dago, Inc. (WD), operates a food truck in Albany, New York. WD brands itself and the food it sells with language generally viewed as ethnic slurs. Owners Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks, however, view the branding as giving a “nod to their Italian heritage” and “weakening the derogatory force of the slur.” Twice, WD applied to participate as a vendor in a summer lunch program in a state-owned plaza. Both times, the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) denied the application because of WD’s branding. WD filed a suit in a federal district court against RoAnn Destito, the commissioner of OGS, contending that the agency had violated WD’s right to free speech. What principles apply to the government’s regulation of the content of speech? How do those principles apply in WD’s case? Explain. [Wandering Dago, Inc. v. Destito, 879 F.3d 20 (2d Cir. 2018)] (See Business and the Bill of Rights.)
Michael Mayfield, the president of Mendo Mill and Lumber Co., in California, received a “notice of a legal claim” from Edward Starski. The “claim” alleged that a stack of lumber had fallen on a customer as a result of a Mendo employee’s “incompetence.” The “notice” presented a settlement offer on the customer’s behalf in exchange for a release of liability for Mendo. In a follow-up phone conversation with Mayfield, Starski said that he was an attorney—which, in fact, he was not. Starski was arrested and charged with violating a state criminal statute that prohibited the unauthorized practice of law. [ People v. Starski, 7 Cal.App.5th 215, 212 Cal.Rptr.3d 622 (1 Dist. Div. 2 2017)] (See Business and the Bill of Rights.)
(a) Starski argued that “creating an illusion” that he was an attorney was protected by the First Amendment. Is Starski correct? Explain.
(b) Identify, discuss, and resolve the conflict between the right to free speech and the government’s regulation of the practice of law.
Usenet is an online bulletin board network. A user gains access to Usenet posts through a commercial service. One such service is Giganews, Inc. Although Giganews deletes or blocks posts that contain child pornography, it does not otherwise monitor content. Perfect 10, Inc., owns the copyrights to tens of thousands of images, many of which have been illegally posted on Usenet through Giganews. When Perfect 10 notified Giganews of posts that contained infringing images, the service took them down. Despite these efforts, illegal posting continued. Perfect 10 filed a suit in a federal district court against Giganews, alleging copyright infringement. [ Perfect 10, Inc. v. Giganews, Inc., 847 F.3d 657 (9th Cir. 2017)] (See Copyrights.)
(a) Is Giganews liable for copyright infringement? Do Internet service providers have an ethical duty to do more to prevent infringement? Why or why not?
(b) Using the IDDR approach, decide whether a copyright owner has an ethical duty to protect against infringement.