On p. 326 of the textbook, Beauchamp and Bowie (2004) identify three primary arguments on the practice of preferential treatment: (a) It is just, (b) it is unjust, and (c) it is not just but it is still permissible. Discuss the argument you think is most consistent with typical American business practices. Provide reasons (including the theoretical rationale) for your position on this issue.
In American business, preferential treatment is alive and well as it has been since the founding fathers did not have the moral fortitude to free the slave or make them full human beings before the law. Those with power still hire those that look and act like them. The augment for preferential treatment has it origins in the fact that this many in this society have be denied equal access to job, housing, human dignity. Some of this is the oppression of the former slave owners and their descendents. Other portions are seen because most men believe that women are not as capable as they are. Lastly this is seen because human beings when operating from a completely ego centered mentality find that everyone other then themselves are somehow lesser and therefore not deserving of the same rights and privileges as they are.
Should there be preferential treatment of course, there should be as long as there is a disparity between classes of people that have been wronged by the practice and there is a need to equalize the opportunities afforded one segment of the population victimized by the practice. The question for some has become when the remedy will be complete. To understand this question one must start with a clear view of what and why there was a need in the first place. Douglas, Robinson, and Seydel (1998) try to explain the need starting from rulings in the courts that there are under represented populations in the general societies when it comes to jobs, housing and the like. Let us not forget the underlying cause for this under representation. The immoral practices of racism, sexism, and intolerance for differences caused the problem. Well how should we as a society give these often poor and outcast persons opportunities? Is it good for business to allow equal opportunity to purchase goods and services? Is it moral to have an open society where everyone with out regard for sex, color or differences of religion, sexual orientation, health or social class have the same opportunities? We have as an intellectual pursuit answered yes to the latter three questions within the limits “of not in my back yard”. Supateera and Kleiner (1999) point to the issuance of the National Labor Relation Act in 1935 as one of the first in a string of ordinances or executive orders prohibiting discrimination and attempting to enhanced equality of people in society. It would seem in that time the problem would be solved. It has not and the courts are still debating ways and means of achieving the goal of a just and equal society in a fair and non-discriminating way.
Greenwood (2002) struggles to apply an ethical model to be used in HRM (Human Resource Management) only to flounder questioning if it is possible for a business’ HRM policy to be ethical. Greenwood (2002) found some success in the quest toward making the logical leap from being moral (as implied in the governmental rulings of the past hundred years seeking a society that ought not discriminate) to an ethical HRM department within the confines of the stakeholder theory. Here at least business might find the fortitude to continue posting the almost ubiquitous non-discrimination policy statements that most employees ignore as they continue to practice unethical preferential treatment (discrimination).
As to the remedy for past preferential treatment (unethical discrimination), Haslett (2002) believe that any color based solution must be severely limited. He states that taking color into account any more than in a most limited manner is not likely to bring an end to racial injustice any sooner, but, through generating misunderstanding, resentment, and hostilely, it is likely only to prolong it. I must remind the reader that we are of looking at a practice that according to Kleiner and Supateera (1999) “includes but is not limited to actions against some groups of people in terms of hiring, firing, promoting, employment benefit, treatment, and working conditions.” It is unfortunate that we thru our elected governmental officials have retreated from the purposes of affirmatively acting to remedy past discrimination. Paolillo, Reithel, and Robinson (1998) show this by stating, “As a further indication of this shift away from state supported racial preferences, legislation is pending in Congress that, if enacted, would make the consideration of any individual's race, color, national origin or gender in regard to selection or eligibility for any federal program unlawful.” It is no secret that in the hay day of affirmatively acting to remedy past discrimination government employees did not rush to the defense of those with protected status (Supateera & Kleiner, 1999).
Lastly, The Supreme Court which is now even more conservative then it was in the past has also weighed in by shifting the ground. Salomone (2004) states “the Supreme Court's most recent decisions, in Gratz v Bollinger and Grutter v Bollinger, have merely shifted the ground rules and reset the framework for action.” The push is toward diversity not racial integration. The highest court responding to the outcry of members of the majority that first did the discriminating has limited race based remedies to a very narrow lane. Kovach, Kravitz, and Hughes (2004) summarize this by stating,
“Several Supreme Court decisions provide guidance, the upshot of which is that affirmative action plans should emphasize race-neutral procedures such as outreach and opportunity enhancement. Any race-conscious actions must satisfy "strict scrutiny." That is, they must satisfy a compelling interest, must be narrowly tailored to address that interest, must not unduly harm others, must be flexible, and must be temporary.”
Although limiting the court is not completely retreating from the Brown decision which set the stage for the affirmative remedy. LaPointe and Fogarty (2004) show that the court is still willing to support some remedies that are distasteful to the majority.
It is of course all but impossible to get people to act ethically when it comes to discrimination. My personal experience advocating for gay, African-American AIDS suffers leads me to believe as Kovach et al. (2004) that “the stronger the plan (affirmative remedy my words), the larger the number of employees who will see it as "unfair," but an open and honest explanation by management is absolutely necessary and can go a long way toward winning (at least implicitly) the support of most employees.” Gaining employee buy-in is the key to the success of any program. If the employees continue to practice unethical preferential treatment no law, program, or business can function ethically, therefore the push must be tailored to educate/ mitigate the practice at the employee level.
Douglas, Robinson, & Seydel. (1998). Affirmative Action: The Facts, the Myths, and the Future. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Vol. 11(Iss. 2), pg 99.
Haslett. (2002). Workplace Discrimination, Good Cause, and Color Blindness. Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 36(Iss. 1), pg. 75.
Kleiner, & Supateera. (1999). Discrimination in government. Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 18(Iss. 5), pg 78.
Kovach, Kravitz, & Hughes. (2004). AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: HOW CAN WE BE SO LOST WHEN WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE WE ARE GOING? Labor Law Journal. Riverwoods, Vol. 55(Iss. 1), pg 53.
Fogarty. (2004). A "MEANS TO AN END": THE
Paolillo, Reithel, & Robinson. (1998). Race-based preferential treatment programs: Raising the bar for establishing compelling government interests. Public Personnel Management, Vol. 27(Iss. 3), pg. 349.
Supateera, & Kleiner. (1999). Discrimination in government. Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 18(Iss. 5), pg. 78.