Answer all 10 questions in the case study. Clearly identify the question being answered by number. You do not have to write out the question. Document as necessary, the different viewpoints as you proceed through the case.
The case study:
THE BATTERED WIFE
Emma works for a medium-size private company, with $300 million in annual revenue. Approximately 30% of the company’s revenue is from government contracts. Therefore, the company must abide by additional government regulations in addition to its normal ongoing policies and procedures. Most of the government contracts relate to disbursing student tuition aid across the country, a portion of which is disbursed directly to students. Emma works as a cash disbursements clerk specifically handling student disbursements.
Emma is 26 years old, a woman of color, a mother of three (ages 13 months, 2 years, and 5 years), and in an abusive relationship. She has reported to work with black eyes, busted lips, and bruises to her face and arms. She tells mostly everyone that she is very accident-prone. Emma has confided the truth to only a small number of her co-workers and friends whom she feels she can trust not to betray her secret. The Human Resources Department has spoken with her on several occasions offering her the services of the company sponsored Employee Assistance Program. However, she has stuck to her accident-prone story in front of Human Resources personnel. Wishing to respect her privacy, the company accepts her excuses. Furthermore, she is a good employee who does her job well and there have been no complaints from her supervisor.
Emma has been employed at the company for more than 10 years. She has made contributions to the company’s 401k plan, which has been matched by the company.
One day, her husband leaves Emma for another woman, and demands that she and their children move out of their home. Emma and her children move in with her elderly mother into a one-bedroom apartment. However, she is not able to afford all of her family’s necessities. One day, in need of milk and diapers, she forges a student’s signature to cash a $50 check she prepared while working at the company. Because she handles up to $40,000 cash per week, no one immediately notices the missing $50. Three weeks later, finding herself in a similar situation, she repeats the process and cashes a $100 check. Again, she is not caught. She originally intends to pay back the money she’s taken, but never actually does so.
Believing that she won’t be caught, she begins duplicating student aid checks, netting her between $350 and $700 per week in additional cash over and above her net pay. She uses the money to rent an apartment and buy food and clothing for her family. There is nothing in her appearance or mannerisms at work to provide a hint that she is taking these funds. There are no new clothes, cars, or unusual vacations. The only thing different is that it is common knowledge that she and her husband are separated and the bruises and bumps are no longer apparent.
Eventually, as a result of monthly departmental reports received from accounting, the company’s management notices an upward trend in student aid costs. Operations management closely tracks these expenses because of mandated external budget reporting. An investigation ensues, and it’s discovered that Emma has been stealing from the company. She is accused of stealing government property, which she initially denies. Eventually she confesses and then profusely apologizes. She explains that her circumstances forced her into taking the money. Management is both stunned and saddened by the circumstances but outraged at her actions.
Overall, Emma stole $19,000 in student aid money. By law, any theft of government property must be reported. The company must either repay the government (make the contract whole) for the cost of the theft or report Emma to the authorities and have her arrested.
1. Is there any excuse that justified theft?
2. What, if anything, should the company have done with respect to Emma’s abusive relationship?
3. Should Emma be fired or rehabilitated?
4. Should Emma be arrested? Is the welfare of her children a material issue in determining this?
5. Do you think that a man would receive the same punishment, if any, as Emma?
6. Does the company share any blame for the situation?
7. Is the amount of money she took an important factor?
8. Does the company have good internal controls? Was she properly supervised?
9. If this happened in a public company, would the outcome be the same?
10. Review section 32 of your course reader “Diversity and Unconscious Bias”. Were your responses influenced by Emma being a woman of color? A female with marital problems? Any other bias? Please explain.
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