Purpose: To deepen our understanding about the development of turnover intention, the purpose of this paper is to develop a model that explains how ethical climate influences turnover intention based on the ethical climate theory and social identity theory. Design/methodology/approach: The hypotheses of this study were statistically tested using a survey of working professionals from Taiwan’s high-tech industry. Of the 400 questionnaires distributed to the working professionals from five large high-tech firms in a well-known science park in Northern Taiwan, 352 usable questionnaires were returned for a questionnaire response rate of 88 percent. Findings: The test results of this study first show that all three dimensions of ethical climate (i.e. instrumental, benevolent, and principled) are indirectly related to turnover intention via the mediation of firm attractiveness. Moreover, instrumental and benevolent climate directly relate to turnover intention, whereas benevolent climate negatively moderates the relationship between principled climate and firm attractiveness. Originality/value: This study finds that benevolent climate plays a dual role as an antecedent and a moderator in the formation of turnover intention, complementing prior studies that merely concentrate on the single role of benevolent climate as either an antecedent or a moderator. The effect of principled climate on organizational identification complements the theoretical discussion by Victor and Cullen (1987) about deontology in which an ethical workplace climate (such as legitimacy) drives employees to invest in identity attachments to the organization and influences their future career decision (e.g. turnover).