The scope of an organization's human resources department reaches far beyond hiring and firing employees. The HR personnel often are held to a high standard of ethics because of the influence that HR has on the productivity and livelihood of staff, and on the way that employees conduct themselves in the workplace. The activities for which HR is responsible affect business principles, ethical behavior and corporate citizenship.

Fair Treatment

HR staff strive for consistent application of workplace policies throughout the organization, regardless of employee status or rank. Holding all employees accountable is what employees expect from their company, according to management consultant David Gebler, in a May 2007 article, "Three Actions with Greatest Impact on Employee Ethics and Compliance," on This means holding executive leaders to the same behavior and conduct standards expected of front-line staff. One example is ensuring that new-employee orientation and training is a requirement for all new workers, at all levels of the organization, because it encourages new employees to embrace the organizational philosophy and mission. Often, executives are exempted from new-employee orientation and other requirements to adhere to certain workplace policies based on their position with the company. This carves an arbitrary line in the sand, particularly when employees are to emulate the behavior of the organization's leaders.

Pay Equity

Fair and competitive compensation and benefits are HR practices that foster equal pay for equal work, one of the key principles of pay equity. Assessment includes analyzing the company's wage and salary scales, measuring how the company ranks against competing businesses and industry leaders, and reviewing internal equity among workers performing similar jobs and duties. Pay equity might also extend to compensation plans that chief executives are afforded. Executives who forgo lavish perks in favor of sustaining the business operations and minimizing staff reductions are supporting HR objectives to provide just rewards to employees.

Mutual Respect

HR department employee relations specialists typically investigate workplace issues and resolve employee complaints before they escalate to formal matters or litigation. In doing so, they set the framework for conflict resolution, whether between employees, or employees and their supervisors. Mediating differences is an HR practice that encourages mutual respect and communication, both of which are ethical behaviors used to develop collegial work relationships. The employee relations discipline of HR also takes on administering employee opinion surveys, which are another illustration of respect for opinions from all employees.


The objective of valuing diversity is to provide equal employment opportunities to a diverse population, in compliance with prevailing laws, regardless of age, color, race, national origin, religion or generational preferences. HR practices that contribute to ethical behavior include providing training and development, mentoring, coaching, and counseling for a diverse workforce.