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A common controversial topic in the workplace is the issue of nepotism. According to
Shaw and Barry, the word nepotism is from the Latin word, “nephew,” and it is the practice by
powerful people of giving advantages to relatives or friends in the workplace (Shaw, and Barry
393). This practice is common when people who have power and essential positions in a firm or
business use their abilities to hire their relatives or close friends. Hiring people based on
favoritism might lead to having employees that are not qualified enough for their work positions
or less qualified compared to other employees that have applied to the same place. The topic of
nepotism goes beyond hiring since employees with authority might give employees that are their
relatives or friends promotions and other types of job benefits.
There are different arguments when it comes to the ethical issues regarding nepotism.
Some people argue that nepotism is not ethically wrong and does not lead to lower business
performance. On the other hand, other people think that the practice of nepotism is unethical and
against the definition of justice. Justice can be defined as fairness, equality, getting what one
deserves, and as an ethical right (Shaw, and Barry 108). Arguments against nepotism also
suggest that it decreases the overall performance of the business.
People that think that nepotism is not ethically bad, have an argument that the employee
who was hired based on favoritism might be qualified for the job and does not hurt the
performance of the company. Also, some discussions suggest that hiring relatives and close
friends create a friendly work environment with a higher level of morale amongst employees and
improves the overall performance of the work (Benjamin).
Another reason for supporting this argument is that nepotism leads to a higher level of
commitment, loyalty, and a lower turnover for employees (Benjamin). Moreover, a reason for
supporting the argument that is in favor of nepotism is that it increases the performance of the
business. The idea is that people who have family members in the same firm have more
knowledge, background, and experience about the environment of the company and the nature of
work compared to others (Benjamin).
On the other hand, other people argue that nepotism is an unethical act because hiring
employees should be based on job qualifications and not favoritism. Also, the practice of
nepotism includes some degree of unfairness since more qualified people may apply for the job
but do not get it since employees were not selected based on job qualifications. Another common
argument against nepotism is that it hurts the performance of the business and affects the
decision-making abilities of the employees (“Nepotism Law and Legal Definition”).
In response to the arguments against favoritism, some large companies have prevented
hiring relatives in the same firm to avoid nepotism (“Nepotism Law and Legal Definition”). An
example of a law against practicing bias in workplace is the 1967 federal nepotism law which
states “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for
appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency
in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a
relative of the public official” (Martin). Nowadays, some states in the US have anti-nepotism
laws for some types of firms, like governmental agencies. Also, different states have different
rules and penalties (“Nepotism Restrictions”). Besides that, there is a federal law that prohibits
federal officials, including the members of Congress, from using their authorities to help or
recommend promoting any of their relatives to any agency that is under the control of these
officials (“Committee on Standards of Official Conduct”).
One ethical problem that might face an employee in a company that practices nepotism
is being in a work environment that is unfair. Unfairness as a result of favoritism occurs in
different ways, like when qualified employees lose promotions or job opportunities because of
less qualified people who are getting jobs and promotions because of their relationships and not
based on job qualifications. As a result of unfairness, employees might feel unappreciated and
have a lower motivation to work hard and be productive, which will decrease their performance
and accomplishments. Another problem that might face employees who work in nepotistic firms
is having managers that are less qualified than them because these managers were hired and got
promoted based on favoritism and not job qualifications and work achievements.
The argument about the ethical view of the practice of nepotism can be justified based on
different normative theories that have different judging criteria to decide what is right and
wrong. An ethical approach that can be used to argue about the moral view of nepotism is
Kantian ethics. Based on this type of normative ethics, ethical judgments should be made based
on ethical rules in order to be justified (Eby). One moral standard based on this type of ethics is
that the action is not wrong if the person who is doing it would be willing to be treated in the
same way if places of the parties were reversed (Eby).
In the argument regarding the ethical view of nepotism, if the people who got jobs
because of favoritism were in the position of the other people who are losing job opportunities or
working in a firm where other employees get benefits because of nepotism, they will not like the
situation. As a result, nepotism classifies as an ethically wrong act based on the logic of Kantian
ethics. Another example where agents who get benefits because of favoritism would not like the
situation if the parties were reversed is if they were employees who have managers that are less
qualified because these managers were hired and got promoted because of favoritism and not
based on job qualifications.
Another ethical theory that can be used to justify the argument of the moral view of
nepotism is contractarian ethics. One example of an ethical approach from contractarian ethics is
the theory of justice. This theory was developed by John Rawls, and it assumes that people are
meeting in the original position with a veil of ignorance which makes them not able to know
their personal information and select the basic principles to govern their society (Eby). Rawls
believes that under these conditions, people would choose to follow the maximum rule, which is
to maximize the minimum or the worst that could happen (Shaw, and Barry, 123).
As a result, based on Rawls theory of justice, if people in the original position meet to
decide if nepotism is good or bad, with a veil of ignorance that makes them not able to know if
they will be able to get job opportunities because of favoritism or have problems because of
unfairness. The decision that people would make is to maximize the minimum chance of being
mistreated and would not accept the act of nepotism.
Another ethical view is the theory of utilitarianism which holds that the ethically good
practice is what gives the highest amount of utility to the greatest number of people in the society
(Eby). In other words, the criteria of deciding if a practice is good or bad should depend on the
amount of utility that it will provide to the larger number of people, even if this practice involves
negative consequences to a smaller number of people.
In the case of nepotism, some people are going to get jobs and promotions based on
favoritism, which means that nepotism gives happiness to some people in society. Based on that,
utilitarianism approach might be used to justify the practice of nepotism since it pleasures some
people. However, the employees who got jobs and promotions using criteria other than job
qualifications could be managers of some employees that are more qualified and deserve more
than their managers. This fact gives unhappiness to the highest number of people in the
workplace who would feel undervalued because of unfairness. In this case, the act of nepotism
hurts another group of people. Even though utilitarianism can be used to justify nepotism, the
situation is different if this act caused harm to another group of people. Since the number of
people who will get benefits because of the act of nepotism is less than the number of people
who would not appreciate this act, since it will cause the work environment to be unjust, the act
of nepotism should be ethically unacceptable based on the theory of utilitarianism under the
condition of unfairness.
The argument about whether the practice of nepotism is ethically wrong or not is
controversial. However, from my perspective, the ethical judgment regarding this practice should
be different depending on the work structure. Some small private firms are family based, and
their owners prefer to hire employees that are family members even if they can hire other people
that are more qualified to work in the firm. In this case, nepotism is not ethically wrong because
hiring family members does not affect other people in the workplace since the owners of the firm
prefer to run their business this way.
On the other hand, the situation is different in public firms and government agencies,
where job opportunities are open to the public, and the hiring criteria should be based on job
qualifications. In this case, it is ethically wrong that people with authority use their power to hire
their relatives and friends instead of giving a chance to other job applicants that might be more
qualified for the job. In this case, practicing nepotism includes injustice, creates a bad work
atmosphere, and creates a conflict of interest. For these reasons, hiring employees based on
favoritism should be banned according to the law in any firm where job opportunities are open to
the public. Also, relatives and family members should not be allowed to work in the same firm if
one of them has authority and control over their relative’s job situation, in order to avoid
nepotism in the workplace.
The first reason why nepotism should be banned is that it is against the definition of
justice as John Rawls two principles of a justice state. According to Rawls, all people should
have an equal right to the most extensive total of the system. In addition, any inequalities in the
society should be under the condition of being open to everyone with fair and equal
opportunities, with the most benefit to the least advantaged individuals in the community (Shaw
and Barry). Hiring people based on favoritism does not satisfy the condition of giving everybody
an equal right to compete for the job, and therefore it is an unjust act that should be banned.
Moreover, the act of nepotism is not ethically right based on the logic of different normative
theories. Based on Kantian and contractarian ethical views, the act of nepotism is not morally
acceptable for various reasons that were explained in the previous section. Therefore, it should
be unjustified by the law.
Another reason that makes nepotism ethically wrong is that it might create an unfair work
atmosphere. Some argued that people who got hired based on favoritism might be qualified for
their jobs, but the problem of nepotism goes beyond hiring. Being in the same firm with relatives
and friends could lead to unfair treatment between employees. However, the situation could get
worse if some employees have authorities to give benefits and promotions to employees that are
their relatives or friends. Giving promotions to some employees based on favoritism is unfair
since other employees might have stronger merit to these promotions.
Also, favoritism between employees might create jealousy between workers in the
workplace and decrease the motivation of the employees of the firm because they are not feeling
appreciated for their hard work. In addition to that, employees who use their authorities to give
advantages to their relatives may lose their credibility among other employees since they are
trying to use their power to improve their well-being. To avoid favoritism between employees,
employees should not have control of any form regarding the situation of their relatives’ jobs.
Moreover, being a nepotistic firm could hurt the business morale. Fewer people would like to
work for a company where employees are not treated equally. A workplace that ignores
employees who have substantial merit, while less qualified workers are getting promotions and
benefits, could lose its credibility. Unfairness in the firm leads to a lower business commitment
since the employees right of working in a fair place is violated.
Practicing favoritism between employees as a result of personal relationships could lead
to having other types of ethical problems. A moral issue that could arise because of employees
who have relatives with authority in their firms, is being able to practice unethical behaviors in
the company without getting penalties because their relationships with the people with power.
These people are protecting them from being monitored which would lead to corruption in the
Additionally, there is a conflict of interest that exists between employees who practice
nepotism and their employers. Firms are interested in hiring people that are capable of holding
their positions as much as possible, and this is the reason why job applicants should take tests,
and the most qualified applicant should get the job. In the case of nepotism, people who choose
to hire workers based on favoritism do not try to hire the most qualified applicant but try to serve
their interests. Employees in firms should not try to look for their well-being if it is against the
firm’s interest like the case of nepotism, and thus practicing nepotism is unethical and should be
prohibited by the law.
However, some anti-nepotism laws already exist in some states in the US, but they
restrict this act only in some important governmental firms and agencies. Having laws that
prohibit practicing nepotism in some governmental agencies is essential to keep them away from
favoritism in the workplace. However, it is not enough to restrict this practice to only some
governmental agencies since it exists in a lot of other government-related and non-government
public corporations where a large number of shareholders own shares. Nepotism is still unfair
and creates problems in the workplace in all public firms where hiring criteria should be based
on job specifications and not favoritism. Therefore, it should be prohibited by law in all public
corporations to avoid bias in the workplace.
Finally, having anti-nepotism laws for all public workplaces will protect the work
environment from being unfair. Having strict laws will give employees who feel unappreciated
because of nepotism the right to act against it and speak about it. In addition, the restriction of
nepotism will lower the level of corruption that might happen as a result of favoritism. In other
words, anti-nepotism laws will protect employees’ rights to work in a fair environment. For these
reasons, the government needs to act against all the individuals who practice nepotism in any
form in all public firms and government agencies.
Benjamin, Tia. “What Is the Importance of Nepotism Policies in The
Workforce?”. Smallbusiness.Chron.Com, 2018,
6 Dec 2018.
Eby, Lloyd. “Some Important Normative Theories of Ethics (Mostly From Various Philosophers)
– A Very
Brief Summary”. 2018, Accessed 6 Dec 2018.
Martin, Micheal. “What Is Nepotism, and Is It Illegal?”. Metro.Us, 2018,
trump/what-is-nepotism-is-it-illegal. Accessed 6 Dec 2018.
“Nepotism Law and Legal Definition”. Definitions.Uslegal.Com, 2018,
https://definitions.uslegal.com/n/nepotism/. Accessed 6 Dec 2018.
“Nepotism Restrictions”. National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018,
http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-table-nepotism-restrictions.aspx. Accessed 6
“Committee on Standards of Official Conduct”. U.S. House Of Representatives, 2008.
Shaw, William H, and Vincent E Barry. Moral Issues in Business. CENGAGE Learning.
TRS 351-B Christian Ethics in the Contemporary World
Second Paper Prospectus
Due: Mon., Mar. 25, Before Class
A “prospectus” is a plan or outline for a major project. Its purpose is to
help you organize your work on that project and to let others know what you are
planning to accomplish with that project. This Second Paper Prospectus will
help you identify your claim, main points, and counter-argument, and then get
feedback from me so that it will be much easier for you to write your paper later
on. This prospectus will be worth fifteen points toward your final paper grade. To
complete the prospectus, type your responses beneath the following questions,
then submit your prospectus in the appropriate place on the class web site.
1. In a complete sentence, what is the thesis, or the claim, for your paper?
(Remember, your claim should be a specific, supportable statement of your
personal point of view on the topic that is relatively comprehensive of what will
be covered in the paper.)
2. What are three reasons or main points you would give to support your claim in
#1? (You might have more than three main points in your paper, this is just to
make sure you are on the right track.)
3. What is one counter-argument, or alternative point of view, that you think it
would be important to include in your paper? Why might someone raise this
objection to your claim? (Note: For many topics, it might make sense to explain
the counter-argument before going into detail on your own position; for
example, if your primary purpose is to argue against a certain point of view, it
would make sense to explain that point of view in some detail, and then devote
the rest of the paper to your arguments against it.)
4. How would you go about showing that your claim is more reasonable than
the counter-argument proposed in #3?
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