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“Equality Theory” as a Counterbalance to Equity Theory in Human Resource Management

Listed author(s):
  • David Morand


  • Kimberly Merriman


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    This conceptual paper revisits the concept of equality as a base of distributive justice and contends that it is underspecified, both theoretically and in terms of its ethical and pragmatic application to human resource management (HRM) within organizations. Prior organizational literature focuses primarily upon distributive equality of remunerative outcomes within small groups and implicitly employs an equity-based conception of inputs to define equality. In contrast, through exposition of the philosophical roots of equality principles, we reconceptualize inputs as de facto equal and consider the systemic application of distributive equality in the form of status leveling practices. Ethical ramifications of distributive equality so viewed are explored. We conclude by arguing that, to implicitly insert a stronger ethics focus into the study and practice of HRM, perhaps there should be “equality theory” competing with equity theory for recognition in managerial and scholarly discourse. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 111 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (November)
    Pages: 133-144

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:133-144
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1435-y
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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Lars Lindblom, 2011. "The Structure of a Rawlsian Theory of Just Work," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 577-599, July.
    3. Harry Buren & Michelle Greenwood, 2008. "Enhancing Employee Voice: Are Voluntary Employer–Employee Partnerships Enough?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 81(1), pages 209-221, August.
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