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Philadelphia Movie Ethical Dilemma

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Business Law & Ethics


Ethical-Conflict Timeline

The ethical issue in Philadelphia is that Andrew Beckett, a lawyer at a successful firm, is unrightfully fired based on his lifestyle and health issues. Although he was a competent lawyer, once partners at the firm realized he had AIDs, they fired him by sabotaging his work, making it seem like he was incompetent. This lead to Beckett suing the firm for unjustified dismissal/discrimination.

The two issues at cost are the firm’s reputation/conservatism and their social duties as lawyers to be impartial to all and not discriminate or overstep boundaries with their employees’ lives. The stakeholders affected by this issue are the firm, the employees of the firm, the community, and other lawyers outside of the firm, employees’ families, and the firm’s clients, owners of the firm, and the judicial system of Philadelphia.

Beckett benefits from suing the firm since he’ll be rewarded for his unjust dismissal. The lawyer persecuting the firm as well, since he’ll be rewarded and will get credit for winning a big case. Beckett’s family also as they will feel justice will be made. Employees benefit because it will help those who felt discriminated at by the firm. The community overall and judicial system of Philly will benefit because it promotes equality and fairness for people of disability/different sexual orientation that they deserve and sets precedent for other similar cases, establishing that AIDs/homosexuality is not a basis to fire a competent employee.

Those who don’t benefit are the firm, since their conservative reputation will be damaged and they could lose clients, profits, and relationships and lose money to pay for punitive damages. The executives of the firm, who were at fault for being discriminatory, and the clients associated with the firm as well.

A balance and logical decision would be for the firm to acknowledge their discrimination and settle the case outside of court by awarding him what he deserves and to fix their image and make a change, donate to AIDs research and participate in anti-discriminatory training. That way both the firm will gain a better reputation of taking responsibility for their actions and the issue won’t go too public and Beckett and the community would benefit. It would assure Beckett that the firm regrets their decisions without causing too much harm to the firm’s image.

       If hired by the firm, in order to address the ethical issues, I think it would be necessary to begin with trying to change the firm’s culture. Because the issues were based on discrimination and lack of communication/knowledge of the issues (such as information on the AIDS virus, which was common back then) I’d start by trying to educate the top executives of the firm first then work my way down the firm. I’d gather as many facts as I could on the health issue, talk to health experts, then meet with executives to have an info session on this illness and how to deal with employees/clients that may have it and the overall view of this illness and dispel the myths that they might have. I’d send out a memo with a summary of that meeting and resources available (which would be created in the firm- most likely the human resources department) to get more information on this topic and/or how to seek help if you might have it. I’d also have sensitivity training on the topic of discrimination, like discriminating against people of different sexual orientation, how it can be avoided and how it is not tolerated within the firm, and make it a requirement for all new and senior employees, regardless of rank. To emphasize this, I’d ask to work with the firm’s executives and re-write a mission statement stating that as a law firm we have not only duties to clients but to our employees as well regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc. It would also be important to have everyone take part on this new culture of acceptance and try to have people set examples.



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