The role of ethics in human resource management is simply the fact that ethics is the chief cornerstone of the entire human resource management practice. Indeed, human resources (HR) deals with the personal aspects of the business enterprise, and it touches on many issues that require the application of ethical standards. Some of the areas that demonstrate this include the hiring of employees and issues of promotion, discrimination, sexual harassment, and privacy, as well as the practice of stated occupational safety and health standards.
One of the primary functions in the human resources department is the hiring of workers. This is an important responsibility that has many ramifications for the prospective employees who may either benefit from getting the job or remain unemployed. The human resource manager, who often has the final say when it comes to the decision regarding whom to hire, must be truly ethical in the hiring process. He or she must ensure that people are hired based on merit, not any personal or professional bias, preferences, or inclinations. For instance, if a male human resource manager is faced with the decision of hiring one out of two females, he must ethically base his final decision on the more qualified of the pair and not the more attractive.
Human resources managers and other employment decision makers must not abuse their position by trying to use it as a means for sexually harassing prospective or current employees. For instance, the application of ethics demands that the human resources manager must not demand sexual favors from desperate applicants in return for promises of employment. Managers must not demand sexual or any other favors from workers in return for keeping their jobs or continuing to receive certain benefits.
Of course, the role of ethics in human resource management would not be complete without the important issue of discrimination, such as those based on religion, sex, handicap, race, physical attributes, sexual orientation, political affiliations, or even something as trivial as the sports team a prospective employee supports. Sometimes, the decision about whom to employ depends more on the inclinations of the human resources manager than on the needs of the organization. Any organization where the HR processes are not firmly rooted in ethics will eventually suffer in terms of incompetent employees and a reduction or lack of fulfillment in production capacity.