"Equality Theory" as a Counterbalance to Equity Theory in Human Resource Management

David Alan Morand, Kimberly K. Merriman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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