42. Ethical Teamwork
Duty in General
45 minutes
Several ethical issues are addressed in this team exercise, the foundation of which
is the “general duty” clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
To encourage discussion/action regarding the “duty” of colleagues to provide a
safe work environment.
Any size group. Participants will work in teams of six to eight participants.
If possible, round table groupings for team meetings.
Flipchart and marking pens
Begin the assignment by presenting the following statistics:
Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace,
according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (For minority women,
current or previous spouses or boyfriends were responsible for about 25
percent of the deaths.)
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 10 percent of
all absence from work is attributable to spousal abuse.
Domestic abuse costs businesses nearly $5 billion a year.
Explain that employers can be found legally liable for domestic violence.
OSHA contains a “general duty” clause that says employers must provide a
workplace that protects workers from recognized hazards. An employee, then,
whose husband came to her office and physically harmed her, might subse-
quently claim the employer was aware of her domestic problems and failed to
protect her.
Point out, too, that one of the recommendations for taking protective steps is
the establishment of a post-violent-incident team. According to HR Manager’s
Legal Reporter, this team has the following duties:
To deal with victims, employees, survivors, and others affected by a
violent incident immediately after it occurs.
To assign qualified team members duties dealing with security, medical
care, and supervisory/managerial responsibilities that follow in the wake
of such an incident.
Form teams of six to eight members. They are to assume their management is
concerned enough about the “general duty” clause that they would like this
team to determine:
How safe their environment really is from domestic violence spillover.
Who would serve on the post-violent-incident team and what their duties
would be.
If the team would be ethically correct in approaching several minority
women whom the team suspects may be in physical danger.
Debrief on two levels:
Content: How valuable was the team’s output? (Specify the forces that
worked to achieve and to prevent accomplishment.)
Context: How well did this team function as a team? (Note the items in the
Variation section.)
Appoint observers who will determine if:
The team wasted time.
A leader was appointed.
An agenda was used. (If so, it should be clearly written on the flipchart,
with time allocations listed for each item.)
A time monitor was appointed.
A topic monitor was appointed.
The team accomplished its goal.
The meeting began with a re-statement/clarification of purpose.
Team members stayed on target.
Ask the observers to prepare a general report (“There was one instance when a
person appeared argumentative...” rather than “Phyllis just wouldn’t let go of her
viewpoint.”) and to share it with the group at large.
Under what circumstances do we have the right to interfere in a co-worker’s
private life?
How safe is your work environment?
Is there a policy related to domestic violence and its transference to the
If so, what procedure does it specify? How widely is that procedure known?
If not, what could you do to create such a policy?
“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare think.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
An additional liability for employers lies in negligence demonstrated by hiring,
retaining, or supervising an employee who winds up hurting someone on the job.
If the injured person can show the employer knew or should have known that the
perpetrator was not suited for the job and that his or her actions could predictably
lead to violence, the injured party would probably win the lawsuit.

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