Ethics in BusinessFrom a business perspective, working under government contracts can be avery lucrative proposition. In general, a stream of orders keep coming in,revenue increases and the company grows in the aggregate. The obvious downfallsto working in this manner is both higher quality expected as well as theextensive research and documentation required for government contracts. If apart fails to perform correctly it can cause minor glitches as well as problemsthat can carry serious repercussions, such as in the National Semiconductor case.
When both the culpable component and company are found, the question arises ofhow extensive these repercussions should be. Is the company as an entity liableor do you look into individual employees within that company? From an ethicalperspective one would have to look at the mitigating factors of both theemployees and their superiors along with the role of others in the failure ofthese components. Next you would have to analyze the final ruling from acorporate perspective and then we must examine the macro issue of corporateresponsibility in order to attempt to find a resolution for cases like these.The first mitigating factor involved in the National Semiconductor caseis the uncertainty, on the part of the employees, on the duties that they wereassigned. It is plausible that during the testing procedure, an employee couldntdistinguish which parts they were to test under government standards andcommercial standards. In some cases they might have even been misinformed on thefinal consumers of the products that they tested.
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In fact, ignorance on the partof the employees would fully excuse them from any moral responsibility for anydamage that may result from their work. Whether it is decided that an employeesis fully excused, or is given some moral responsibility, would have to be lookedat on an individual basis.The second mitigating factor is the duress or threats that an employeemight suffer if they do not follow through with their assignment. After thebogus testing was completed in the National Semiconductor labs, thedocumentation department also had to falsify documents stating that the partshad surpassed the governmental testing standards.
From a legal and ethicalstandpoint, both the testers and the writers of the reports were merely actingas agents on direct orders from a superior. This was also the case when theplant in Singapore refused to falsify the documents and were later falsified bythe employees at the have California plant before being submitted to theapproval committees (Velazquez, 53). The writers of the reports were well awareof the situation yet they acted in this manner on the instruction of asupervisor.
Acting in an ethical manner becomes a secondary priority in thistype of environment. As stated by Alan Reder, . . . if they the employeesfeel they will suffer retribution, if they report a problem, they arent toolikely to open their mouths. (113).
The workers knew that if the reports werenot falsified they would come under questioning and perhaps their employmentwould go into jeopardy. Although working under these conditions does not fullyexcuse an employees from moral fault, it does start the divulging process fordetermining the order of the chain of command of superiors and it helps tonarrow down the person or department that issued the original request for theunethical acts.The third mitigating factor is one that perhaps encompasses the majorityof the employees in the National Semiconductor case.
We have to balance thedirect involvement that each employee had with the defective parts. Thus, it hasto be made clear that many of the employees did not have a direct duty with thetesting departments or with the parts that eventually failed. Even employees, orsub-contractors, that were directly involved with the production were not awareof the incompetence on the part of the testing department. For example, theelectrical engineer that designed the defective computer chip could act in goodfaith that it would be tested to ensure that it did indeed meet the requiredgovernment endurance tests. Also, for the employees that handled the part afterthe testing process, they were dealing with what they believed to be a componentthat met every governmental standard. If it was not tested properly, and dideventually fail, isnt the testing department more morally responsible than thedesigner or the assembly line worker that was in charge of installing the chip?Plus, in large corporations there may be