Martha is the administrative assistant to Valerie, the practice manager in a five-physician practice. Salaries of staff are confidential. Since payroll is handled by an outside company, only the practice manager has knowledge of who makes what salary. Valerie has gone to lunch and left her door open. Several people have been in and out of Valerie’s office dropping off reports or other information.
Martha goes in the office to place a report on Valerie’s desk and notices that a budget worksheet listing all staff salaries is in clear view. It would be easy to take a quick look, especially since Martha believes she is paid less than other employees with fewer responsibilities. Martha backs out of the office and locks Valerie’s door without looking at the sheet. She thinks to herself, If I should not know what everyone else is being paid, then no one else should either.
Curtis is one of the employees who had left information on Valerie’s desk before Martha closed the door. He also sees the budget sheet but does not stop to look at it. It did not occur to him to look at it, although it would have been great to know that he was being paid more than other employees. He puts his file down on Valerie’s desk and thinks to himself, I will warn Valerie that she needs to be more careful about what she leaves on her desk for anyone to see.
According to virtue ethics, who is more ethical – Martha, the one tempted to look, but doesn’t, or Curtis, who isn’t even tempted to look? Defend your answer.
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