In 2006, Babiak and Hare alerted the public to the danger of “corporate psychopaths,” psychopathic individuals occupying positions of power in business organizations. Since then, academicians and the public media have advertised their presence, documented the harm they can cause, and issued a call to arms to identify corporate psychopaths and eliminate their presence in the workplace. Very little attention has been paid, however, to the ethics of such a “seek and destroy” mission. The Ethics of Employment Screening for Psychopathy argues that employment screening for psychopathy would be illegal and unethical. On legal grounds, Brian K Steverson argues that psychopathy would qualify as a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and, hence, medical screening to identify potential corporate psychopaths would be in violation of the ADA. On ethical grounds, the case is made that such screening would violate a social commitment to equal opportunity, would constitute a morally unjustified violation of personal privacy, and would, in practice, not produce the intended benefits, while at the same time inflicting harm on the subjects of the screening.
Brian K. Steverson is John L. Aram Chair in Business Ethics in the School of Business Administration at Gonzaga University.
Chapter One: Psychopathy Defined
Chapter Two: Corporate Psychopaths: Seek and Destroy
Chapter Three: Psychopathy and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Chapter Four: The Ethical Issues
About the Author
If psychopathic personalities exist and can be identified, and if their behaviors harm fellow employees, organizations, and society, would screening to exclude them from employment be legal and ethical? This narrowly targeted question receives an evenhanded, objective assessment in this thoroughly researched and meticulously argued book. Steverson (Gonzaga Univ.) extensively reviews the research on psychopathy and its measurement and first argues the case for guarding against employment of persons identified as presenting such personality types in corporate organizations. This position is termed the "Corporate Psychopath Hypothesis." Granting the force of this argument, Steverson then suggests that screening for such traits could pose possible liability risks under a strict reading of the Americans for Disability Act. More broadly, then, he makes the careful though counterintuitive case that, given certain questions about the validity and reliability of such measurements, the case for screening is ethically unsupportable. . . Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.
In this interesting and eloquent book on the ethics of screening for psychopathic employees, Brian Stevenson provides a comprehensive and very useful examination of the complex, and sometimes conflicting, moral and legal issues involved.
Professor Steverson not only offers one of the first genuinely philosophical treatments of psychopathy in the workplace. He strikes a bold blow for disability rights by arguing that employment screening for psychopathy is unethical. The Ethics of Employment Screening for Psychopathy certainly made me think, and it should give human resources professionals serious pause.