My company is illegally dumping toxic waste. Do I report them?
Q: I drive a forklift for a chemical company. They’ve had me dump some barrels of stuff out back. I know this stuff is leaching into the ground, and it’s poison. If I tell someone, I’ll get fired. But I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting sick or dying. What do I do?
A: You are in a difficult position with a serious subject that entails moral, ethical and legal issues. Before answering this question, let’s step back and define the principles at work. Here’s the difference between morals and ethics:
• Morals are defined in a person’s character and principles upon which they were raised. More often than not, a person’s moral code is unchanging throughout his or her lifetime.
• Ethics are standards of behavior that define a social system where an individual’s moral codes are put into place. Ethical systems are changing dependent on the moral code of the group, or at least the leadership in charge.
Now it’s time to call in the consultants:
• Consultant #1 - The priest: Morally and ethically, you know you have an issue. Take time to meet with your priest and discuss the issue. Not only are priests men of God, they have spent years studying ethics, sociology and psychology. Additionally, they run businesses – your local church. So, they understand the business world.
• Consultant #2 – A lawyer: You can’t handle this one on your own. You have been asked to do something illegal. To minimize the legal impact for you personally, contact a legal advisor immediately.
The next few months may be tough – and doing the right thing sometimes is not the easiest path. Yet, you can take comfort in Matthew 16: 26-28: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”
May you find joy!