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Decent Termination: A Moral Case for Severance Pay

  • Tae Wan Kim (a1)

People are often involuntarily laid off from their jobs through no fault of their own. Employees who are dismissed in this manner cannot always legitimately hold employers accountable for these miserable situations because the decision to implement layoffs is often the best possible outcome given the context—that is, layoffs in and of themselves may be “necessary evils.” Yet, even in circumstances in which layoffs qualify as “necessary evils,” morality demands that employers respect the dignity of those whose employment is involuntarily terminated. In this paper I argue that to preserve the dignity of employees who are involuntarily terminated, in most cases employers have a substantial reason to offer a special kind of unemployment benefit, “severance pay.” To support my claim I draw and expand upon Bernard Williams’s analysis of “agent-regret,” which I believe greatly helps to address and articulate employers’ obligations in the context of involuntary termination.

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Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
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