Ethics Case Study-1

A close friend of your joins a reputed construction firm. He is assigned to a
project under which the company is building a flyover in a metropolitan
city.
In his very first week on the job, as he inspects the construction designs,
he realizes that there is a potentially dangerous flaw in the design, which so
far has gone unnoticed. He informs his immediate superior about this, who
agrees with his assessment. But since it was the superior who had passed
the design in the initial stages, he tells your friend not to reveal this to
anyone else otherwise the company would punish him severely. He further
assures your friend that his silence and cooperation in this matter would be
handsomely rewarded in the future.
Your friend is very worried about what to do next and approaches you for
counsel.
a) What arguments can you advance to show him that keeping quiet is not
morally right?
b) What course of action would you advise him to adopt and why?
(200 words- 20 marks)
I would tell my friend that keeping quiet in these circumstances is not only morally
wrong but also amounts to a dereliction of duties, given that any damage to the
flyover could cost precious human lives. I would advice him not to keep quiet
because:
i) It amounts to a violation of public trust, since he is knowingly placing their
lives at risk.
ii) It reflects moral corruption, since any such action would be in expectation of
career benefits for himself.
iii) It is vital to enforce accountability on the superior, since there may be other
projects that have been similarly compromised- due diligence must be
ensured there too, which can be initiated only when this serious error is
reported.
Thus, I would advice him to begin by explaining to his superior that no damage
has been done so far. At the moment, it is only a design flaw, which can be
rectified with the investment of time and money. The superior may earn a
reprimand or penalty from the company. But any such punishment would be
considerably mild compared to the punishment he can expect if the flyover
collapses and people die. Further, admitting that he erred right now may earn him leniency in any disciplinary proceeding, but wilful deception is likely to increase the nature of penalties.
If the superior refuses to cooperate or attempts to threaten my friend, I would
advice him to approach the superior’s superior with the facts and ask him to
intervene. If he faces opposition from the firm’s senior management too, he has
the option of bringing the matter to the attention of the concerned govt authorities
and seeking corrective action.

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