Paul Cronan and New England Telephone Company
The Paul Cronan case is an example of legal and ethical reactions associated with minorities in general, and disabled persons in particular. It illustrates the interplay between law and ethics, and that mechanical application of the law does not automatically produce a correct result.
The case was settled out of court and we will never know how a jury would have seen the facts of this case. However, even if it had been found that New England Telephone Company followed the letter of the law, it failed to live up to the higher standard of ethical treatment of its employee, Paul Cronan. Mr. Cronan alluded to the fact that there was a great deal of prejudice against homosexuals in the working class neighborhood of South Boston where he worked.
It is evident from the case text that there was a normal amount of interaction between management and employees, therefore I assume that they were aware of the hostility expressed toward Mr. Cronan by his coworkers including death threats. It may even be assumed that management had similar feelings if they too were from this neighborhood. By failing to keep his personal medical information confidential they exposed him to a great deal of unnecessary danger and emotional stress.
Regardless of a person's sexual orientation, it was unethical behavior on the part of NET that contributed to Mr. Cronan's inability to work and support himself. NET made a public statement at a news conference announcing the settlement, which it did not treat its employees with insensitivity but their actions seem to contradict this. They even drafted a corporate AIDS policy stating that AIDS is treated like any other illness contracted by an employee. I wonder under the circumstances if an employee with lung cancer would have suffered the same invasion of privacy, humiliation and harassment that Paul Cronan did. Pretty scary isn't it.
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