Ethics and the behaviors associated with them have the highest significance for different reasons within a business organization. Companies must ensure they follow all levels of ethical behavior when any activity is performed at their premises; especially activities related to business research. Business research is the systematic inquisition that provides information to direct managerial decisions (Cooper & Schindler, 2011). Its purpose is to allow companies access to valuable information on company policies, customer service and consumer buying habits. Business owners can use this information to discover which products and services are important to the public, worker morale and behaviors, as well as what they can do to set themselves apart from the competition. However, wrong methods and/or unethical research conduct can obscure results and lead to the damage of a companies’ process, financial statue and image. An example of unethical business research can be found in the 2004 discrimination lawsuit against the restaurant Cracker Barrel. A number of bad research methods contributed to the courts’ order to convict and discipline the retailer for a number of consumer accusations.
The leading cause of the court’s decision was the companies’ bad research and investigations into the basic problems and the flawed information that was turned into the Department of Justice following said investigation. Cracker Barrel Restaurant and Old Country Store, a nationwide retail chain, underwent random testing of its facilities and stores to monitor the possibility of racial bias in customer service. This research and observation was not only to screen for the possibility of racism, but to expand culture and diversity training to employees as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice on May 3, 2004. This agreement was made after a number of African Americans (and other minority groups) customers of the establishment came forward with complaints through the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP, stating “ they were made to wait longer for tables, were seated away from white patrons, received inferior service and were otherwise discriminated against at Cracker Barrel restaurants” (Fears, 2004).
As part of a court agreement, Cracker Barrel conducted its own corporate research into the accusations against its company. They concluded that no wrongdoings were committed, asserting that its company has always maintained anti-discrimination policies to all consumer no matter what gender, race and sexuality they are. Upon the reception of Cracker Barrel’s results, the Justice Department decided to hire an independent auditor to check their claims. “The Justice Department’s investigation included interviews with approximately 150 persons, [of which consisted] mostly [of] former Cracker Barrel employees; and found that 80 percent stated that they experienced or witnessed discriminatory treatment of customers at a Cracker Barrel restaurant,” according to R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The conclusion suggested that some managers directed, participated in, and/or encouraged stereotyping and discriminatory behaviors from employee,” Acosta’s added (Schmit & Copeland, 2004).
Though this suit ended with the court’s judgment for Cracker Barrel to pay fines and damages to a number of customers and their attorneys, the company’s reputation for discrimination is continuously being investigated a number of private and federal groups, including the Department of Justice, NAACP, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. The first issue with the company began with management not taking customer complaints seriously, however, the major issue is how the company went about resolving the issue. Had they taken the time to actually brainstorm and come up with a logical way to resolve the issue, the accusations probably wouldn’t have turned into a class-action lawsuit.
And when the Department of Justice demanded the company conduct a private, internal investigation, they should have gone about doing it the right way. However the company and managerial lack of interest in proper investigation and research skills lead them to produce questionable results of value to the case. With this, the Department of Justice chose to proceed with its own investigation to prove or disprove the case and integrity of the company.
Cooper, D., & Schindler, P. (2011). Business research methods (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw- Hill/Irwin. Retrieved from the University of Phoenix eBook website: https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/TOC.aspx?assetid=8e4d9544-fa8b-4402-8f2d- 624db889e46d&assetmetaid=179f7507-93d0-431c-826f-d663a33b6057 Fears, D. (2004). Crackle Barrel, Government Settles Discrimination Suit. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved January 21, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/articles/A639242004 Schmit, J. & Copeland, L. (2004). Cracker Barrel customer says bias was ‘flagrant’. USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2012 from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/companies/2004-05-07-cracker- barrel_x.htm