IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • David Morand


  • Kimberly Merriman



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

Suggested Citation

  • David Morand & Kimberly Merriman, 2012. "“Equality Theory” as a Counterbalance to Equity Theory in Human Resource Management," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 133-144, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:133-144
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1435-y

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Lars Lindblom, 2011. "The Structure of a Rawlsian Theory of Just Work," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 577-599, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Marco Heimann & Étienne Mullet & Jean-François Bonnefon, 2015. "Peoples’ Views About the Acceptability of Executive Bonuses and Compensation Policies," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 661-671, March.
    2. repec:eee:jbrese:v:85:y:2018:i:c:p:226-237 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ryan, James Christopher, 2016. "Old knowledge for new impacts: Equity theory and workforce nationalization," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1587-1592.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:1:p:133-144. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.