Having worked as an evaluator for an accrediting institution, my task basically consisted of testing samples from different clients and issuing safety certificates once the samples check out negative of any possible harmful substances. The ethical issue emerged during one assignment involving a client which was a purified water servicing company owned by a Ms. H. After I filled my initial findings to my boss Mr. G. , he asked me to disregard the results of my work and issue a safety certificate anyway.
Although the samples submitted to me by Ms. H’s company for testing were not excessively toxic, it contained some anomalous substances which made me submit a negative report denying the client of a safety certificate. Mr. G. wanted me to redo the report, and issue a safety certificate despite my findings. Although the substances found in the water samples were not directly toxic and the water was still basically potable, my professional oath made it unethical for me to report findings that the samples were absolutely clean.
Also, it was against my oath to issue a safety certificate knowing that the sample falls below the standards that the company I worked for claimed to have. Mr. G. was my boss so I had responsibilities to uphold as a subordinate but these responsibilities conflicted with my ethical responsibilities to my profession. I had the power to issue the safety certificate, but I believed that professional ethics dictated that I was not authorized to do so. My boss had the power to tell me what to do, and to threaten to fire me if I did not comply, but he did not have the authority to issue the certificate on his own.
This meant that he relied on his power over me as his employee to tap the authority to authorize safety certificates. However his power over me was limited only so far as his authority over me extended, the full extent of which was with respect to my keeping or losing my job. The ethics in question was professional, whether or not I was to put more premium in keeping my job over being completely true to my oath. I was concerned not only about my oath, but also about my reputation as a professional.
On the other hand, I was also concerned about my job and the financial implications of getting fired. There were also values of reputation to be considered in leaving my work, as my boss has a lot of connections and I feared being blacklisted if I went against him. It seemed that my courses of action were simplified into two; either I quit my job or do what my boss says. If I quit my job, my boss would probably just find some other person to do his dirty work so Ms. H. ’s safety certificate will still be issued.
If I kept it, it is very likely that the water being serviced by Mrs. H. ’s company would have no harmful effects, but in the case that it did or if some other people found out what I had done, I would be placed in a very delicate and potentially legally detrimental situation. I decided to quit my job. As expected, Mr. G. ’s company continued to exist and still does up to this time. However, Mrs. H. ’s certificate was never issued, as I have not seen her water servicing stations operational.
Of course it’s entirely possible that Mr. G. simply advised her to switch her company’s name and apply for a certificate again. Looking back in that point of my life and relating it to what I’ve learned since then, I know that I have made the right choice. I have learned that even without the risk of being discredited in my profession, my professional oath is a sacred trust to which I am bound (Rogers, 2003). My responsibilities lie not only towards my employers, but even more so towards all the stakeholders in my work.