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Ethics Cases

One-Part Cases

One-part cases consist of a short traditional ethics case and instructor notes.
Case: Rapt Flight Systems
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Proprietary information, trade secrets

The proposal manager for a lucrative opportunity at Rapt Flight Systems gains access to proprietary information of the primary competitor for the business. A critical member of her proposal team is also a former employee of the competing firm. The case follows different employees of Rapt and how they act regarding both these issues. What are the responsibilities of individual employees with knowledge of potential improprieties? What are the obligations of the organization? How do market pressures affect behavior and create risk?

Case: Relational Solutions
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Disabilities, performance issues

An engineering staff member at Relational Solutions, Inc., a 7,000-employee high-end electronics firm, experiences difficulties related to her hearing impairment. However, questions arise about her performance separate from her disability. The case follows her manager as she attempts to balance operational needs with the need to make reasonable accommodations for the disability. How do we separate what is genuine failure to perform from issues that could be resolved by reasonable accommodations? How do preconceptions about disabilities affect our actions?

Case: Anderson Rollers and Bearings
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 5
Primary Topic(s): Inside information

Anderson Rollers and Bearings, Inc. is a designer and manufacturer of high-performance bearings, transmissions, and gearboxes. When an executive assistant discovers some sensitive, non-public information regarding the company's business plans, it creates a conflict between an obligation not to disclose the information and a desire to protect another person who will be adversely affected.

Case: Alanthus Hotel Group
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Abusive conduct and retaliation

An employee at a hotel chain is subjected to verbal abuse by her manager. This is part of a pattern of such abuse of employees by the manager. Another employee reports the abusive conduct, the matter is substantiated, and corrective action taken. But the employees are not aware of the resolution of the case. Subsequently, the employee who was the subject of the most recent incident feels she is being retaliated against. The case looks at the growing concern over abusive conduct in the workplace as well as the effect of retaliation. What is abuse? What does retaliation look like? How do both abuse and retaliation affect the workplace and the viability of an organization? A subsidiary issue is communication with employees over ethics allegations.

Case: Polymentos Consulting
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Abuse of position

There is an often-expressed perception in organizational ethics research that executive management is not held to the same standards as others in the organization. This case will examine situations that arise in the workplace where pressure to please a senior manager can create potential problems in an organization. To what extent can a senior employee use his/her position to influence subordinates and colleagues for private purposes, even when those purposes may be considered a good end? Does it make a difference if the end result benefits a relative, a student, a charity, or a valid political goal?

Case: Teller Aerospace
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Bribery

Bribery, particularly in the conduct of international business, draws a great deal of attention from enforcement agencies and the press. What constitutes bribery — is it as obvious as it seems? Are "everyone does it" and "that's the way business is done in this country" valid arguments? Are there values to be considered and not just rules (the law)? This case of a British-based multi-national company that provides radar and flight control systems worldwide, examines both the effect of bribery on society and how individuals see their responsibilities in the face of questionable conduct.

Case: Optimatics
Written by: Earnie Broughton
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Employee surveillance

Employers have the means to monitor data related to all kinds of employee activity at work. Sometimes employees are aware of the surveillance capabilities of companies and the data they collect and sometimes they are not. Should a company be transparent about the kinds of employee activities they monitor and why? Or should they withhold this information from employees to make it easier to detect misconduct and criminal activity?

Case: Advanced Technology Labs
Written by: Earnie Broughton
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Procedural justice

Procedural justice involves establishing and communicating transparent processes to support a perception of fairness and justice. This case of a computer chip manufacturing company presents a situation related to the promotion of an employee with two possible outcomes; one where there is no context of procedural justice, and the other where procedural justice is present. The case will compare and contrast outcomes with the two approaches.

Case: Graham Intelligent Solutions
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Off-duty conduct

Two employees at Graham Intelligent Solutions, Inc., a developer of large-scale software systems, display questionable conduct outside of the workplace and work hours. To what extent is such conduct a matter for concern by their employer and to what extent can or should an employer impose discipline? Does the fact that one employee is a non-manager and the other is a senior manager make a difference? Accountability for conduct at different organizational levels in the company is a concern in this case.

Case: Integrated People Solutions
Written by: Earnie Broughton
Pages: 5
Primary Topic(s): Employee health benefits

Employers have a vested interest in the good health and well-being of their employees. Healthy employees are more productive, take fewer sick days, and make fewer claims against the employee insurance plan. Increasingly, employers have begun to use mandates, incentives, and penalties to discourage employees covered by their insurance plans from smoking, exceeding Body Mass Index (BMI), or engaging in other "risky" behaviors that create financial threats to the company. How far companies can or should go in attempting to influence or control their employees' health-related practices and behavior is an issue with ethical implications.

Two-Part Cases

Two-part cases consist of a Part A traditional ethics case, plus a Part B crisis situation, which provides more information and can be introduced after Part A.
Case: Early Childhood Disease Research Foundation
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 7
Primary Topic(s): Internal controls, sexual harrassment

Early Childhood Disease Research Foundation (ECR) is the leading funding organization for research in rare early childhood diseases. Participants in the case will take the role of a management consulting group reviewing ECR’s strategic plan and making recommendations to the Board of Directors. The review uncovers issues relating to management oversight, internal controls, and inappropriate relationships between employees.

Case: Home Office Designs
Written by: Tim Mazur
Pages: 7
Primary Topic(s): Genetic screening

Home Office Designs is a small business that creates high-tech, adaptable home offices for telecommuters. Participants will advise the company on the appropriate action to take after one of the owners accidentally overhears an employee tell another that she has received genetic screening test results that threaten her safety on the job.

Case: Phinney, Inc.
Written by: Tim Mazur
Pages: 7
Primary Topic(s): Location-based tracking, privacy, corporate espionage

Phinney, Inc. is a $775 million emerging technology company that makes leading-edge batteries for products ranging from the smallest computer devices to hybrid vehicles. The company learns that a competitor is tracking Phinney's employees using location-based tracking technology, and Phinney is considering doing the same. Participants will advise the company's management on a strategy in this case, which addresses issues such as privacy, fair competition, and corporate espionage.

Case: Acli-Mate Formulations
Written by: Tracy Gonzalez-Padron
Pages: 11
Primary Topic(s): Product quality

Acli-Mate Formulations is a start-up operation for sports nutrition supplement drinks. The company operates in a controversial industry because of the ongoing research on the safety and suitability of energy and sports drinks. Participants in the case will take the role of a management consulting group advising the company on growth and to address a crisis situation. Issues addressed include validity of product claims, athlete banned substances in products, marketing to youth, fairness in distribution/competition, and consistent production quality.

Case: Milton Field Systems
Written by: Charles Chadwick
Pages: 11
Primary Topic(s): Various

Associated Defense Systems, Inc. (ADS), a major defense and aerospace company, is in the initial phases of acquiring Milton Field Systems, Inc. (MFS), a mid-tier defense firm. Participants in the case should take the role of a management consulting firm conducting a due diligence review of MFS' corporate culture and ethics issues for the board of ADS in preparation for a formal offer for MFS. In Part A of the case, many issues are present including lack of corporate oversight, lack of effective ethics and compliance infrastructure, retaliation, abuse of position, conflicts of interest, and more. Part B of the case reveals surprises that further highlight the consequences of MFS' ethical issues.

Written by: Dr. Andrea Bonime-Blanc
Pages: 7
Primary Topic(s): Implantable technologies, animal and human testing, whistleblowers

Two technology firms, BESLA and PEAR, have created a joint venture to develop and sell a revolutionary new, implantable high-tech product called Alter/Ego. When users of the implants develop medical issues, many ethical issues come to the surface including treatment of whistleblowers, testing on animals and humans, high pressure performance incentives and financial targets, and more.

Case: Healthy Kids Playground Equipment
Written by: Anne Harris
Pages: 8
Primary Topic(s): Conflicts of interest, product safety, sexual harrasment, workplace intimidation, and more

Healthy Kids is a successful family-owned business that undergoes an erosion of its culture of integrity when the founder, who had been a champion of high ethical standards, suffers a lengthy illness and dies. His daughter assumes the mantle of CEO and, over the course of her first year in the role, learns about a number of issues related to ethics and compliance lapses. These issues are negatively impacting the company's bottom line and its reputation.

Case: GeneFutura
Written by: Dr. Andrea Bonime-Blanc & Jacqueline Brevard
Pages: 6
Primary Topic(s): Gene editing, social media, board oversight, celebrity CEOs, international joint ventures

GeneFutura is a gene-editing firm with operations and joint ventures in several countries. Their visionary celebrity CEO generates much controversy with her high profile social media lifestyle. In addition to those issues and others, the firm is reported to be developing a prototype gene-edited human, allowing people to choose gene options for their children.


E-cases consist of an ethics mini-documentary video and an online learning module with activities to explore the ethics issues in the case. There are two options for instructors to provide their students access to the e-cases:

General Access:
Instructors can give their students general access by simply clicking the general access button below and completing a two-question survey. You will receive a direct link you can provide to students where they can access the full e-case.

Customized Access:
This option allows instructors the added ability to track their students' registration and completion of the case, and establish deadlines. Customized Access will require students to register and create an account with Helios Digital. To establish customized access, email a request to Helios Digital with the following information:
  1. Instructor name
  2. Instructor's class name and number (e.g. Accounting 201)
  3. Completion deadline
You will receive an email from Helios Digital within 48-72 hours with your personalized access information for your course. For questions, please contact Helios Digital at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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Case: Blindspots
Produced by: Helios Digital
Primary Topic(s): Investment fraud
Click image to the right to preview video

Jay Nolan was a successful bond trader who got in over his head and found himself hiding his customers' losses from them. Jay shares his true story about how bad decisions he made while trying to make up losses, grew into a larger fraud which ended up sending him to jail. In this two-part e-case, learn how principle-based ethical decision-making could have helped Jay avoid this situation.

Click here to download the Teaching Note which provides case background and tips on integrating the case into your course.

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Case: Trust, but Clarify
Produced by: Helios Digital
Primary Topic(s): Company credit cards and expense reports
Click image to the right to preview video

When Heather's boss asked to borrow her corporate credit card, it seemed like a reasonable business request. But it quickly became concerning after her boss made fraudulent personal charges on Heather's card. In this two-part e-case, you will hear what it took for Heather to speak up about this unethical behavior, and learn what to do when faced with your own ethical dilemmas.

Click here to download the Teaching Note which provides case background and tips on integrating the case into your course.

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