How business-government represent clash of ethical systems

Case Scenario:

Every summer and Christmas vacation for the past four years, I have worked in the maintenance department of a paper company. While working there to help finance my college education, I have been exposed to many questionable practices. One of the most prominent problems is the adherence to safety regulations. OSHA ( Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires that a vessel- confined- space entry permit be filled out before a person enters the confined area and that a " sniffer" ( a device used to detect oxygen deficiencies and other harmful or combustible gases) be present and operational whenever a person is inside. A confined space is defined as any area without proper air ventilation and/ or an area more than five feet deep. For example, tanks and pits are confined spaces. Anytime a person enters or leaves a confined space, the person is required to place her or his initials on the entry permit. This is for the physical protection of the worker and the liability protection of the company. If workers are seen violating this policy, they can be reprimanded or fired on the spot. In my many experiences with these confined spaces, I have observed on numerous occasions that these policies are not broken by the workers, but by the supervisors. It is their responsibility to obtain these permits and sign them, as well as obtain the use of a sniffer. Sometimes the supervisors and the workers forget that we are working in a confined space and thus forget the permit and sniffer. When someone has realized that we are in a confined space, however, the supervisors have often asked us to initial the permit at various places as if the permit had been there all along. When we work for extended periods of time in these areas, the sniffer's batteries often go dead as well. Instead of following regulations and leaving the area until a new sniffer can be obtained, the supervisors often tell employees to stay, declaring, and "The air is fine. You don't need a sniffer!" My problem is this: Should I sign these permits when I know it is dishonest, or should I do the "right" thing and let OSHA know that this regulation is being broken time and time again? After all, I'm not even a full- time employee, so who am I to cause trouble?

Read the Ethics in Practice Case above.

Problem 1. Who are the stakeholders in the case and what are their stakes?

Problem 2. Discuss what you think you would have done in the situation presented in the Practice Case. Do you think the regulation is important? Why or why not?

Problem 3. What are your thoughts on the government's role in influencing business? Do you think the government should influence business or do you think it should leave businesses to regulate them? Explain.


Problem 1. Briefly explain how business and government represent a clash of ethical systems (belief sys-teems). With which do you find yourself identifying most? Explain. With which would most business students identify? Explain.

Problem 2. Explain why the public is treated as a separate group in the interactions among business, government, and the public. Doesn't government represent the public's interests? How should the public's interests be manifested?

Problem 3. What is regulation? Why does government see a need to regulate? Differentiate between economic and social regulation. What social regulations do you think are most important, and why? What social regulations ought to be eliminated? Explain.

Problem 4. Outline the major benefits and costs of govern-mint regulation. In general, do you think the benefits of government regulation exceed the costs? In what areas, if any, do you think the costs exceed the benefits?

Problem 5. What are the trade- offs between privatization and federalization? When would one or the other be more appropriate? What problems might you foresee?

Part II

Problem 1. Explain lobbying in your own words. Describe the different levels at which lobbying takes place. Why is there a lack of unity among the umbrella organizations?

Problem 2. What is a PAC? What are the major arguments in favor of PACs? What are the major criticisms of PACs? In your opinion, are PACs a good way for business to influence the public policy process? What changes would you recommend for PACs?

Problem 3. Discuss the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and its likely effect on future elections. What further types of campaign financing reform would you recommend?

Problem 4. Discuss efforts by companies to circumvent governmental regulations. Is the use of legal loop-holes ethical?

Problem 5. Research the Supreme Court decision on campaign financing and determine its ongoing impact. Do you agree with the decision? Would you change it if you could?

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Business Law and Ethics: How business-government represent clash of ethical systems
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