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Office of Quality Compliance & Review

Ethics in the Workplace

What is ethics?

Ethics are standards of conduct that indicate how one should behave based on moral duties and virtues, which themselves are derived from principles of right and wrong. So you need to know right and wrong (values/principles), and then do it (action).

As a public service, the Office of Quality Compliance & Review (OQCR) also produces the annual “IDOT Ethics in the Workplace Seminar”. The IDOT Ethics in the Workplace Seminars have been noted by the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General as the first of their kind in Illinois. The seminars are designed to guide and educate employees to the benefits of making good ethical decisions and the consequences of making bad decisions. These seminars have included guest speakers from government, industry and the media including noted author Scott Turow, former United States House of Representatives Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, former Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District, Chad Fornoff, Executive Director, Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, Charles Kocoras, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, Lawrence Oliver II Chief Counsel and Head of Investigations, The Boeing Company, and Christopher Kennedy, President, Merchandise Mart Properties to name a few.

How are supervisors responsible?

Supervisors are responsible to lead by example. Employees look up to supervisors for cues about how to behave in the workplace. They model their behavior accordingly. If supervisors never raise ethical concerns in the workplace, neither will their staff. As a supervisor, you should include a discussion of ethics issues in regular meetings. At first, be prepared to initiate and carry the conversation yourself. Once employees learn that talking about ethics is an appropriate and desirable activity during regular meetings, discussions will follow as they would for any other item on the agenda.

Supervisors must be accessible and open. “Open door” policies are essential. Staff should be reminded of the confidentiality provisions of the Ethics Act, the availability of their ethics officer, and of their whistleblower rights. Finally, employees must believe that their supervisor will take their concerns seriously and follow up with appropriate action. If an issue needs to be referred to an Executive Inspector General, be prepared to explain the process that follows.

How are employees responsible?

According to the Executive Ethics Commission, “as State of Illinois employees, we are paid to serve the public interest.” Therefore, employees are responsible to act in an ethical manner at all times. For more information on employees’ responsibilities, please refer to Personnel Policy Manual, Chapter 16 on Political Activities, Contributions and Gift Ban.

Why ethics training for employees?

Employees who face an ethics-related crisis often feel isolated, with nowhere to turn. A sense of isolation, in fact, is a primary reason why employees don't speak up at all. It is thus of vital importance that, during ethics training, employees learn that they are not alone. Whether employees turn to an ethics commission, an ethics officer, an executive inspector general, or elsewhere, the important thing is that they know that they can and should tell someone. If employees come out of ethics training with an understanding that help is available, half the battle is won.

Did You Know?

In addition to handling over 100 investigative cases per year, in cooperation with a variety of law enforcement agencies, Director Kennelly has been able to make education a priority. He is recognized for his creation of an annual Ethics in the Workplace seminar. This time-consuming and painstaking effort has grown from a small intra-agency seminar, with speakers drawn primarily from IDOT, to a large, statewide simulcast event, with national and international speakers. For the January 7, 2009, Director Kennelly coordinated the efforts of four agencies (IDOT, Revenue, Toll Highway Authority, and Central Management Services) to host a very successful inter-agency seminar. Held at the University of Illinois Chicago, the program was simulcast via the internet to 12 locations throughout the State, affording an educational opportunity on these vital issues to approximately 650 State employees.

What are some of the ethical violations?

Please click on the links below for more information:

Gift Ban (PDF 184KB)

Prohibited Political Activity (PDF 127KB)

Vendor Ethics In Illinois (PDF 128KB)

Whistle Blower (PDF 372KB)

Other Links

Archives of Ethics in the Workplace Seminars

Illinois Executive Ethics Commission (EEC)

Office of the Executive Inspector General

National White Collar Crime Center Website

OQCR Links


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