Difference Between Legal and Ethical Issues

Legal vs Ethical Issues

Issues by nature are many and, today, many issues are brought up and are questioned upon their varying natures. Ethical and legal issues, being two kinds of issues that are often brought up especially in organizations, are two terms that often clash with one another and at the same time working with one another on different occasions, as well. But what are the discerning characteristics that set them apart?

What are Ethical Issues?

An ethical issue is rooted in morals that call for an individual or a company to choose between alternatives that can be evaluated as wrong (unethical) or right (ethical). It is based upon the perception of the rightness or the wrongness of an act or a situation and thereby affects the society or other individuals. An ethical issue also raises questions of virtue and is often guided by one’s sense of the right and the wrong.

Mostly prevalent in business, one example of an ethical issue would be the hiring and firing of employees, whether or not that the employee will be able to maintain him or herself after being fired from his or her position.

What are Legal Issues?

A legal issue can be defined as a question or a situation that primarily involves the application of principles of law. Legal issues arise due to the in-adherence or the noncompliance with the principles of law which can be considered as an offence against the law. Such issues are usually punishable by law and harbour consequences that are imposed upon by the governing law of a country. An organization engaging in illegal business would arise in legal issues, which would amount to the company being penalized by law for its unlawful conduct.

What is the difference between Ethical and Legal Issues?

It is a known fact that most laws are based upon ethics. It is because of this reason that ethical and legal issues often overlap each other, thereby making it quite difficult to make a distinction between the two. However, it must be made clear that ethical and legal issues are two different types of issues that must be dealt with in different manners.

• Ethical issues are not governed by a set of rules and thereby are not punishable by law. Legal issues have a set of rules on which they are based and are punishable by law if those rules are not adhered by.

• What is legal can be unethical. For example, the firing of an employee by a company is not illegal but may be unethical.

• What is ethical can be illegal. For example, euthanasia may be viewed as ethical, but it is illegal in most jurisdictions.