Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Legal Studies & Business Ethics

First Advisor

Alan Strudler

Second Advisor

Kok-Chor Tan

Abstract

This dissertation concerns the ethics of responding to transgressors of morality through means available to us as members of society (as opposed to the question of how the state ought to respond to wrongdoers). I focus on the question of how firms should respond when an employee is the subject of mass outrage due to performing some allegedly immoral conduct outside the workplace. Since managers often feel pressure to respond swiftly in such scenarios, it is important that they have clarity about the normative issues. The first step of the argument involves defending the claim that firings in certain contexts constitute expressions of blame. The second step of the argument discusses the nature and ethics of blame. In particular, I argue that since blaming is a communal practice, there are coordination problems that prospective blamers must attend to and that the appropriateness of an act of blame depends on how much others blame. I conclude that there is strong moral reason against firing an employee in response to outside of work immoral conduct that generates mass outrage.

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