Business Ethics

Business Ethics

>From a business perspective, working under government contracts can be a
very lucrative proposition. In general, a stream of orders keep coming in,
revenue increases and the company grows in the aggregate. The obvious downfalls
to working in this manner is both higher quality expected as well as the
extensive research and documentation required for government

contracts. If a part fails to perform correctly it can cause minor glitches
as well as problems that can carry serious repercussions, such as in the
National Semiconductor case. When both the culpable component and company are
found, the question arises of how extensive these

repercussions should be. Is the company as an entity liable or do you look
into individual employees within that company? From an ethical perspective one
would have to look at the mitigating factors of both the employees and their
superiors along with the role of others in the failure of these components. Next
you would have to analyze the final ruling from a corporate perspective and then
we must examine the macro issue of corporate responsibility in order to attempt
to find a resolution for cases like these.

The first mitigating factor involved in the National Semiconductor case is
the uncertainty, on the part of the employees, on the duties that they were
assigned. It is plausible that during the testing procedure, an employee couldnít
distinguish which parts they were to test under government standards and
commercial standards. In some cases they might have even been misinformed on the
final consumers of the products that they tested. In fact, ignorance on the part
of the employees would fully excuse them from any moral responsibility for any
damage that may result from their work. Whether it is decided that an employees
is fully excused, or is given some moral responsibility, would have to be looked
at on an individual basis.

The second mitigating factor is the duress or threats that an employee might
suffer if they do not follow through with their assignment. After the bogus
testing was completed in the National Semiconductor labs, the documentation
department also had to falsify documents stating that

the parts had surpassed the governmental testing standards. From a legal and
ethical standpoint, both the testers and the writers of the reports were merely
acting as agents on direct orders from a superior. This was also the case when
the plant in Singapore refused to falsify the documents

and were later falsified by the employees at the have California plant before
being submitted to the approval committees (Velazquez, 53). The writers of the
reports were well aware of the situation yet they acted in this manner on the
instruction of a supervisor. Acting in an ethical

manner becomes a secondary priority in this type of environment. As stated by
Alan Reder, . . . if they [the employees] feel they will suffer retribution, if
they report a problem, they arenít too likely to open their mouths. (113). The
workers knew that if the reports were not falsified

they would come under questioning and perhaps their employment would go into
jeopardy. Although working under these conditions does not fully excuse an
employees from moral fault, it does start the divulging process for determining
the order of the chain of command of superiors and it helps to narrow down the
person or department that issued the original request for the unethical acts.

The third mitigating factor is one that perhaps encompasses the majority of
the employees in the National Semiconductor case. We have to balance the direct
involvement that each employee had with the defective parts. Thus, it has to be
made clear that many of the employees did not

have a direct duty with the testing departments or with the parts that
eventually failed. Even employees, or sub-contractors, that were directly
involved with the production were not aware of the incompetence on the part of
the testing department. For example, the electrical engineer that

designed the defective computer chip could act in good faith that it would be
tested to ensure that it did indeed meet the required government endurance
tests. Also, for the employees that handled the part after the testing process,
they were dealing with what they believed to be a component that met every
governmental standard. If it was not tested properly, and did eventually fail,
isnt the testing department more morally responsible than the designer or the
assembly line worker that was in charge of installing the chip? Plus, in large
corporations there may be several testing departments and is some cases one may
be held more responsible than