Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Influence of an HIV/AIDS Policy on Ethical Decision-Making in the Termination Process: A Laboratory Experiment

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Influence of an HIV/AIDS Policy on Ethical Decision-Making in the Termination Process: A Laboratory Experiment

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The fundamental reason for developing an HIV/AIDS policy is to influence the behaviors of decision-makers within the organization. There is plenty of anecdotal information (e.g. Redeker and Segal, 1988; Baumhauer, 1991) affirming that HIV/AIDS policies make a difference. We have empirical findings (Ross and Middlebrook, 1990; Whitty, 1991) that some organizations have developed such policies. However, we have little empirical evidence that demonstrates whether or not these policies influence the judgment of organizational decisionmakers. This paper reports on two empirical studies designed to test the effectiveness of an HIV/AIDS policy on ethical decision-making. The results of the two laboratory studies provide empirical support for developing an HIV/AIDS policy within organizations. The implications of these findings are discussed.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, HIV/AIDS was a subject corporate America tried to ignore (Knotts & Johnson, 1993). One reason corporate America could ignore this epidemic was that HIV/AIDS was an acute short-term illness with an average span of eighteen months between diagnosis and death (Banta, 1993). However, due to advancements in early diagnosis and medical treatment, people with HIV/AIDS are living longer and continuing their work life activities (Welch, 1998). Consequently, people living with HIV/AIDS will remain in the work force for a longer period of time than previously possible.

In 1992, Garrett (1992) estimated that by the year 2000 there would be 30 to 40 million people worldwide infected with HIV. Booth (1993) argued that if only half these cases materialize, it would become common for medium-sized organizations to have at least one employee infected with HIV. Stone (1994) proposed that for these reasons alone organizational leaders should do everything possible to replace fear and anxiety with understanding and acceptance. On World AIDS Day 2003, the World Health Organization announced that there were already 40 million people infected with HIV worldwide (Altman, 2003). Yet a recent survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (AIDS discrimination, 2003) found that one of the most common hardships faced by the estimated 900,000 people infected with HIV in the United States was workplace discrimination. It is one reason the United Nations World AIDS Campaign is focused on stigma and discrimination and why all of the member states have "pledged to enact or enforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV" (Annan, 2002).

If this alone does not motivate corporate America to action, the fact that HIV/AIDS conditions are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should provide additional impetus. Previously, employees with HTV/AIDS were often incapable of working for an extended duration due to declining physical and mental health. Declining health coupled with late diagnosis forced many employees with HTV/AIDS to request leaves of absence or termination with severance payments. However, many other employees infected with this virus were summarily terminated or discriminated against during hiring, promotion, and layoff decisions (Annon, 2002; Banta, 1993). Currently, due to early detection and better drug treatment, HIV-positive people are staying in the work force longer (Welch, 1998).

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers with HFV/AIDS from discrimination in the workplace based on HFV/AIDS, hi part because of ADA stipulations regarding HFV/AIDS, this issue has generated more lawsuits than any other single disease in American legal history (Stone, 1994; Roberts, 1996). Greenwald (1997) points out that the employers' Achilles heel when defending themselves against claims of discrimination by rejected applicants or terminated employees is a lack of uniformity in applying organizational policies to applicants and employees with HIV/AIDS. This whole issue of discrimination and the legal ramification for organizations even reached the silver screen in movies such as Philadelphia. …

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