Ethical Case Study Analysis
In 1985, Hughes Aircraft Company’s Micro-electronic Circuit Division developed computer chips, known as hybrids. These hybrids were involved in aircraft radar units and missile guidance systems within the military. Failure of an installed hybrid may result in the radar being used by a fighter plane to misdirect the weapon. To avoid this issue in the field, the government required the computer chips to pass a series of quality assurance tests. In addition to the tests, the company must keep track of assessments with documentation known as the “lot traveler.” Two employees, Ruth Aldred and Margaret Goodearl, began to notice issues within the process of chip testing and paperwork for the hybrid microchips. Margaret Goodearl worked as a supervisor for the sealing process of the chips while previously working as a supervisor for the assembly on the hybrids as well as being a supervisor in the hybrid engineering lab. Ruth Aldred was a supervisor for the hybrid quality assurance. When Aldred and Goodearl noticed some issues within the paperwork, they brought it to their managements attention who told them to keep quiet about the problems. In this case, the two upper management included Donald LaRue, who was supervisor on the testing floor, and Hughes himself, owner of the aircraft company. Over time, Aldred as well as Goodearl decided the issues needed to be brought to the federal governments attention. As a result, an investigation was opened to question the accusations at hand. Subsequently, Aldred left the company while Goodearl was laid off by Hughes Aircraft in 1989.
Various ethical issues come to the mind when reviewing this case over. Some issues seen are over use of power, neglect of privacy, impartiality, dishonesty, and deception. First off, since Donald LaRue was next in management on the testing floor, he had the power to take the issues into his own hands. Furthermore, he had the power to change the working environment on the testing floor although he had limitations to his power since he reported to Hughes. At times, in order to meet the production targets, Hughes, through LaRue, would allow for sign offs on thousands of hybrids to be forged by employees even though tests as well as test results were not performed neither obtained. As a result, this was putting many lives in danger since these chips, as stated previously, were being used in military hardware. Another ethical issue observed here is one of privacy. After discovering these actions occurring, Goodearl brought them to her superiors knowledge. Consequently, Goodearl experienced intimidation and harassment towards whistle blowing after this incident. This discredited the privacy that should be had between employees and upper management. Moreover, the theme of impartiality is clearly visible in this case study. Aldred and Goodearl were not only looked down upon due to discovery of the issue but also since they were woman. In the eyes of the company, these woman did not have as much power as other employees, such as Donald LaRue. This brings in the issue of power once again but mainly focuses on the point of impartiality, or the unfairness. Within the company, all employees must be treated with the same respect, anything else is unethical. Finally, dishonesty is an immense ethical issue presented in this case. As stated in the article, LaRue, under the influence of Hughes, skipped procedures, falsified paperwork to state the hybrid passed required tests, and performed unauthorized rework on the hybrids.
In my opinion, if I was put in the position of Aldred or Goodearl I would have followed in their footsteps. Skipping test, forging documentation, and removing stickers off failed hybrids in order to meet manufacturer goals is not ethical, rather it is illegal. These actions violated the contract made between the government and Hughes aircraft company. So if I was in the position where I discovered this misconduct,