1 Ethics Leila Nguyen University of Houston Business Law & Ethics Professor Williams 4/13/2024



Leila Nguyen

University of Houston

Business Law & Ethics

Professor Williams


Universal Ethics, Utilitarian, Golden Rule Ethics, & Virtue Ethics

Ethical Issue

The ethical issue in this scenario is whether Luke should tell his brother Owen about ABC company’s plans to build an entertainment store or uphold the confidential clause of the job. It is about Luke’s conflict between breaching the terms of his job contract or breaking the loyalty of his relationship with his brother by withholding sensitive information. Choosing to withhold information from Owen means that the value of his house will depreciate after the company announces its plans to the public. If he decides to disclose the company plans to Owen, he will go by the currently offered ‘okay’ price, thus avoiding losses arising from lower prices.

Luke’s situation is ethical because he has to make a moral decision. Such decisions are affected by preconceived notions or inherent rules and values. The values held by individuals provide a roadmap of how they ought to behave. Expectations from society also reference the acceptable things to embrace and those that are unacceptable. In the current case, Luke has to decide between acting with integrity as required by the social rules or following his conviction about family relationships. Suppose his inherent codes give higher regard to family relationships than work relationships. In that case, Luke may compulsively go against his employment expectations and disclose the company’s plans to Owen.

Universal Ethics

Kant used categorical imperatives to describe morality. Categorical imperative refers to mandatory commands that a person should follow while pursuing their desires (CrashCourse, 2016). He considers abiding by the moral law to be compulsory and such behavior to be common knowledge. According to universal ethics, an ethical action can be converted into a universal law. The universal law allows everyone to act similarly when faced with similar circumstances. In the current case, Luke should share company information with Owen only if the behavior can be generalized (CrashCourse, 2016). In other words, if every other employee would freely disclose company information to their relatives. Clearly, taking that direction would throw the firm into a chaotic situation. That means Luke should suppress loyalty to his brother.

Kant’s ethics requires individuals to reflect on the universal law applicable before taking moral actions. In Luke’s case, safeguarding a company’s confidential information can be adopted by other employees. Abiding by organizational rules allows the smooth running of workplaces. Universal ethics, therefore, forbid employees to prioritize personal relationships at the expense of corporate ones. For the sake of strengthening trust between the company and clients, employees ought to safeguard information entrusted to them.

Kant emphasizes that moral actions should not cause contradictions. If Luke went ahead and disclosed company plans to Owen, an imbalanced society would be created where one person holds a competitive advantage. It would be contradicting if every employee shared company plans with their kin every time( CrashCourse, 2016). Were such behavior to be made universal, conflicts of interest would flood the business environment, making it difficult to make progress. An unfair society would be created that favors the relatives of employees. Luke should, therefore, avoid disclosing the project report to Owen.

Universal Ethics Correction:
Some relevant arguments made towards application of theory to case facts; however, the arguments could be developed a little more fully here, to bring out the key tenets of the theory. In general, considering the difficulty in applying this theory, Luke would be faced with a dilemma about what would be the right choice to follow in this case. What should Luke do, that everyone else could also follow universally? In this case, since Luke is first a professional, you may like to ask: “What would the world be like if everyone in Luke’s position shared confidential company information outside with the others?” Would this help you make more convincing arguments here? You must also consider the criticisms of the theory for a more balanced analysis, i.e., it allows no flexibility in action. You should also consider the other possibility here, i.e., whether it would be ok to have a universal rule that one must help their siblings or be honest with them. In the end, you have not concluded your arguments here clearly. What should Luke do?


Utilitarian ethics describe moral actions on the basis of consequences and outcomes. If good outcomes are produced, the preceding action automatically becomes good. The happiness generated by each consequence determines their level of goodness. In a utilitarian approach, human beings should act to produce the highest good for a higher number of people( CrashCourse, 2016). Pursuing the pleasure of the majority, in most cases, means suppressing personal interests. Luke can, therefore, reflect on the choice that will produce more benefits for most people. I would ask him to consider the impact his actions will generate on each stakeholder.

In the event that he discloses company information to Owen, Luke’s relationship with his brother will profit. Owen will make an informed decision to accept the present price. By so doing, he will avoid the case of having to settle for lower property rates by waiting for future years. However, Luke’s relationship with his employer will be negatively affected. Since disclosing organizational information to external parties goes against company policies, corrective measures will be taken upon him, which may even involve termination of employment. If other stakeholders, such as neighbors, learn about the action, they will lose trust in the company for acting in partiality. Clients will shift to a company that upholds fairness. Overall, disclosing the development details to Owen will have net negative consequences for the majority of people( CrashCourse, 2016).

Luke’s failure to inform Owen about the upcoming project will harm their relationship. Owen will lose trust in him as a loyal brother. Besides, he will probably suffer financial losses by turning down the current offer, only to face worse prices in the future. However, Luke will enjoy a healthy relationship with his employer. The company’s neighbors will be treated fairly, thus promoting healthy networks. The client’s positive perception of ABC Company will not be affected, which will benefit the company. Clearly, the net results of this action will be positive(CrashCourse, 2016).

Utilitarianism Corrections:
 Arguments towards application of theory to the case are correctly made, but need to be more complete. You need to show me how the end-effects you talk of will come about as a result.

However, some of the arguments need to be more logically developed. In the end, you could more clearly bring out the sum of ALL the consequences (societal harms and benefits) if Luke divulges the information, or if he does not do so? This will help you to more convincingly make a recommendation from this theory for Luke. You could also consider the criticisms of the theory more comprehensively, e.g., what’s greater benefit or greater harm; who decides that, etc.

While discussing the harms of Luke sharing the information with Owen, you could have discussed aspects such as: Owen benefiting over the other home owners in the neighborhood, risk of protests and potential lawsuits against ABC Co., possibility of Luke being identified as the source of the leak and resulting consequences, etc. In your arguments, you have not considered those who will be harmed by the adult entertainment center not coming up, which would include ABC Company, its employees, their families, its suppliers and other stakeholders in the local community, including those who could have got jobs there. This could also include Luke (losing his job, possibly)! Also, what if Luke’s brother decides to keep the benefits to himself—by selling his property, before any others can come to know?Luke should, therefore, choose to withhold company information from Owen.

Utilitarianism Final recommendation:
So, what should Luke do? What will you advise him?

Analysis is incomplete. No conclusion and final recommendations.

The final recommendation needs to be supported by arguments made towards application of theories to case facts. However, application of theories to case facts isn’t completely done, as pointed out above. Arguments towards application to case facts must be clearly and correctly developed, as per the tenets of these theories. Finally, you need to make a clear recommendation to Luke–I do not see it here. If you do not make a specific recommendation from the theories, you will lose points in the future assignments.

Golden Rule Ethics

According to the Golden Rule ethics, humans should do to others what they want done to themselves (Gensler, 2013). The principle leaves open the standards of the good or the bad, which an individual would wish to receive in return. As long as the reciprocation of your actions would bring fulfillment to you, then the golden rule of ethics justifies the action. A notable problem with this rule is that the intentions of malicious actors cannot be separated from those of genuine persons. For example, someone who would like to be killed gets a license to slaughter under this principle. In other words, the appropriate ways in which people wish to be treated differ from one person to another. This pauses complexities in the application of the principle.

In the current case, Luke should consider how he would wish to be handled. This consideration can be approached in two ways: by the company and by Owen. If Luke is to put on Owen’s shoes, he would wish his brother to demonstrate loyalty to their relationship. Luke would expect his brother to help him make the best decisions to the best of his knowledge. Were he to be in a dilemma of choosing between an acceptable price and waiting for an unknown future to chance a better price, Luke would wish that sharing the situation with his friend would lead him to make the better decision. Failure to act in this manner would result in a broken relationship and a deal gone wrong for Owen. However, the way he would desire to be treated depends on whether both parties involved are ethical-minded (Suchanek, 2008). In the first case, the golden rule would guide Luke to disclose the information to Owen, meaning he accepts the okay price. If Luke and Owen are ethically minded, Luke should demonstrate loyalty to his employer by safeguarding company information, and Owen would have chosen that option, too.

From the company’s viewpoint, Luke should reflect on how the company would like to be treated by an employee in his shoes. The answer to this reflection should then define the right thing for him to do. As a commercial organization, any action compromising its profitability and well-being would threaten its survival. If Luke shares confidential information with outsiders, they would take advantage of the opportunity the company is eyeing, meaning that opening the entertainment store would create less value. When the company’s performance is generally low, its stakeholders will be negatively affected. Luke would most probably not desire such a treatment. For this reason, he should avoid putting ABC in such a situation but instead choose to respect the terms of his work contract. He should, therefore, not tell Owen about the plans to construct an entertainment store in the neighborhood.
The Golden Rule:

Great! Application of the theory is correctly done. You have considered that Owen would not want Luke to jeopardize his career; however, this is an ideal situation and it may not be so always. So, Luke could be confronted with a dilemma here about what he should do.You have brought out the difficulty in making a decision here. How could Luke resolve the dilemma? You also need to consider how does the theory’s requirement that “Luke must be highly ethical” come to influence his decision here. How does that apply here? Does this help resolve his dilemma? Concluding arguments are correctly made, but could be more forceful applying the requirement of the theory to be highly ethical.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics require individuals to act in a way that upholds virtues such as honesty, compassion, justice, and care (Hursthouse, 2017). Aristotle suggests that aligning our actions with virtues leads to adopting the best decisions in the face of ethical dilemmas. Virtue ethics rely on the inherent beliefs which a person holds. The actor’s perception of morality and integrity influences their actions. In other words, the question of whether killing is a good decision depends on the actor’s perspective about the behavior of killing.

In Luke’s case, his decision to disclose company information to an external party depends on what that would reveal about his morality. Luke’s character should be the determining factor, such that if he desires to be regarded as an honest employee, he should safeguard the company’s information (Hursthouse, 2017). Therefore, the company would consider him loyal, and Owen would probably never know that Luke had the opportunity to alert him about the construction plans. However, if he chose to break the privacy rule, the company would associate him with lousy morality. The consequence of evil morality would be losing his employment contract. The company would also lose on potential investments, and stakeholders would suffer. Luke would appear to be malicious and selfish before the company stakeholders. In light of these possibilities, the virtuous way to handle the situation is to abide by the terms of his employment contract and let Owen learn the news from the public announcement.
Virtue Ethics Corrections: Great! Theory has been correctly applied and some good arguments made here. You must also consider the criticisms of the theory for a more balanced analysis. In general, Luke would face a dilemma choosing between his family and work context. Perhaps, consideration of his primary role and obligations may help you make your recommendations even more forcefully here.   Luke’s current dilemma applies to his work context, so the arguments made to uphold his duties as an employee are on the right lines here. You could also apply the Golden Mean logic to help arrive at a decision for Luke under Virtue ethics.

Final Recommendation Missing: Good effort! Your final recommendations for Luke needed to be supported by arguments made towards application of theories to case facts. Application of theories to case facts needed to be done more completely, as indicated above. Arguments towards application must bring out the key principles of each theory. A summary reference to both theories in the recommendation can highlight the important elements and also bring out why you prefer the theory (or theories) that you do. Also, consideration of the criticism of the theories may help decide which of the theories may be more applicable in this case. In the end, you need to briefly summarize your earlier arguments and state clearly what you recommend Luke should do.


CrashCourse. (2016, Nov 15).
Kant & Categorical Imperatives: Crash Course Philosophy #35[Video]. YouTube.

CrashCourse. (2016, Nov 21).
Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36[Video]. YouTube.

Gensler, H. J. (2013). Ethics and the golden rule. Routledge.

Hursthouse, R. (2017). On virtue ethics. In Applied Ethics (pp. 29-35). Routledge.

Suchanek, A. (2008). Business ethics and the golden rule. Diskussionspapier des Wittenberg-Zentrums für Globale Ethik, 2003.

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