Ethics In Business

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 couldnt 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 arent 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