What Are the Different Types of Business Ethics Violations?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Among the many types of business ethics violations are those that create a hostile business environment, such as the intimidation or sexual harassment of workers. Stealing, lying and mismanaging funds are included among ethical principals that are sometimes broken within the business world. The violation of many core business ethics, such as wiretapping and bribery, are not only considered to be poor business conduct, but are also illegal in most jurisdictions.

When businesses adhere to a high standard of professional ethics, consumers tend to feel comfortable continuing business relationships with them. When business ethics violations occur, however, the opposite is generally true and companies revealed to have broken core business values tend to experience public backlash. Additionally, since disregarding corporate ethics can be illegal, some companies and business executives end up being sued or receiving jail time for violations. There are, therefore, violations that are merely breaking a previously established business code, such as colleagues stealing clients, whereas other violations are actually criminal offenses.


Some business ethics violations are not so clear cut as to immediately appear to be illegal. In these cases, a court is often asked to decide whether a violation has occurred or not. In the early history of music sharing, the issue of ethics and the legalities of sharing music files over the Internet was one such instance where the actions of sites dedicated to this practice were seen by many to be engaging in violations of business ethics and were left to courts to decide.

It is not uncommon for businesses to establish their own code of ethics of which employees are expected to adhere. While disregarding such ethics may be cause for dismissal, this type is not necessarily illegal. An example of this type of violation may include two employees of the same status within an organization engaging in a consensual romantic relationship despite agreeing to not do so per a company’s ethical standards. Business ethics violations like this often result in the dismissal of one or both employees, but do not typically require either employee to be criminally prosecuted.

Business ethics violations such as discrimination, safety violations, poor working conditions and giving away proprietary information often result in a lawsuit against the offender. When successful, monetary damages are usually rewarded to a victim to dissuade further violations. In an effort to assure that business ethics violations do not occur, ethical expectations are printed and distributed to a company’s executives and employees.


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Post 4

@everetra - I worked for a company that cooked the books. Their revenue started declining and so to make the company continue to look prosperous, they did some creative accounting.

Numbers were moved around to make it look like we were still making money, even when companies in comparable industries were losing a lot of money.

I don’t need to tell you that the company was busted and the CEO is now serving jail time.

Post 3

@NathanG - I get amused at the paperwork they make me sign about intellectual property. I am a programmer and they tell me that every idea, program, concept, invention that I create on the job is owned by them.

That’s always funny. How can they own my ideas? I will take them with me. I sign the paperwork anyway. You have to read between the lines.

They don’t want you stealing their trade secrets, which I never do. Honor the spirit of the law and you’ll be okay.

Post 2

@Charred - Yeah, the policy about two people in the same department dating is one such example. That is a clear breach, and I think common sense would tell you that it can create problems. I saw this happen in one company where I worked at, until management stepped in and stopped the relationship (at least the appearance of it in the workplace).

Post 1

I happen to believe that if you are a moral person, with integrity and character, you don’t need to be told what to do and what not to do in a business environment.

Let conscience be your guide, as Jiminy Cricket likes to say. However, absent any core values, you will probably need things to be spelled out in writing.

Most companies don’t take anything for granted, so they make you sign a ton of paperwork telling you what is and is not acceptable behavior.

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