196 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
CASE 6: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER
Ethics Dilemma Scorecard
Public Safety & Welfare
Data Integrity & Representation
Trade Secrets & Industrial Espionage
Gift Giving & Bribery
Principle of Informed Consent
Conflict of Interest
Accountability to Clients & Customers
TELL US YOUR STORY
In order to save money, my company decided to lay off 15% of its total
work force. As a manager, I was responsible for choosing which of the four
engineers in my group would be laid off. My boss advised me to choose the
person least needed for specific projects slated for the next 2 years. Based
on this criterion, I knew I had to fire our engineer on an H1B visa.
This was a terrible choice. The H1B was issued to my company only, and
without it, the engineer would be forced to return to his unstable, impover-
ished country. Legally, when we terminated him, we were only required to
pay for one ticket back to his homeland, but Human Resources (HR)
agreed that we should issue tickets for him and the other members of his
family. If the project list had been different, I could have chosen another
engineer, who was younger, single,American, and could probably get a job
more easily. Should I have chosen the younger engineer instead?
According to HR, because the H1B visa is issued to foreign workers
whose specialized skills cannot be found among U.S. workers, it would be
illegal to choose an American worker for the layoff over a foreign worker.
Sympathy should not alter my choice. After an agonizing 24 hours, I chose
the foreign-born engineer.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE
Nothing. I made the right choice based on company needs, not personal
sympathy. Besides, as my wife pointed out, professional decisions should
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