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Case Study Law Ethics: “Something Rotten in Hondo” Essay

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Updated: May 4th, 2022

Introduction

The stakeholders in the case study include employees, the local community, management, the environmental regulatory agency (EPA), the government, as well as the owner of Adnak Plastic Inc.

The interests of the mentioned stakeholders are all related to the smokestack emissions released by Adnak. Both the government and the regulatory agency (EPA) have a role to ensure emissions from Adnak are lowered to acceptable limits. These stakeholders are also enjoined in protecting the health of employees and the Hondo community. The management (George, Bill, and the owner) is interested in not only ensuring the company meets the regulations set by EPA but also in guaranteeing its profitability and competitiveness. The employees are directly affected by the decision taken by management concerning the factory’s emissions. Lastly, the community is directly exposed to the health hazards posed by high emissions.

Case Analysis

Legal Analysis

Adnak has an obligation to assure the conditions of its employees and the community’s health by minimizing the smokestack emissions to limits that will not only promote physical and mental health but also prevent disease, injury, and disability (Gostin, 2010). As such, it is tenable to mention that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) applies in this case to the extent that the government and EPA must implement controls aimed at checking the problem of excess emissions produced by Adnak. The government, in particular, is legally obliged to protect Adnak’s employees from harm, injury, or death by ensuring that correct safety and health precautions are followed.

Legally, the Mexican government’s decision to allow Adnak to operate with its poor emission record is wrong as it exposes employees to dangerous and unhealthy working conditions presumably for profit-oriented gains. The OSH Act is clear that managers must not expose the health and safety of employees to harm for economic gains. The decision by the government to ignore or neglect the health hazards affecting employees due to the smokestack emissions is in itself wrong because the primary concern for any government should be hinged on creating conditions for people (employees and the community) to lead healthier and safer lives (Gostin, 2010). Indeed, according to this particular author, “…the law is a tool that is used to influence norms for healthy behavior, identify and respond to health threats, and set and enforce health and safety standards” (p. 5). Consequently, the decision to allow Adnak to operate with unsafe environmental emissions is wrong as it does not only lead to the augmentation of health threats but also stalls the government’s foremost duty of setting and enforcing health and safety standards for employees and the community.

Ethical Analysis

There exist several ethical theories and perspectives that George could have employed to reach a solution to the ethical issue, which revolved around either correcting the problems that led to high levels of smokestack emissions or agreeing to relocate and hire Mexican workers to evade clean air restrictions (Fraedrich, n.d.). Each of the two decisions bears far-reaching ethical ramifications (Weiss, 2008).

Using the categorical imperative perspective of doing the right thing no matter the consequences (Arnold et al., 2010), George could have refused to relocate and ask the company for financial resources to remedy the emission problem as the only morally right thing to do because it could have dealt with the issue without transferring it. Likewise, using the utilitarian approach of doing the greatest good to the greatest number (Arnold et al., 2010), George could have refused to relocate and ask the firm to provide resources to remedy the problem as this was the only way to ensure that the greatest number of people (employees and the community) were safeguarded from the environmental hazard.

Moving on, George could have employed the moral rights perspective to expose the agreement between the Mexican government and Adnak to moral scrutiny in the conviction that employees (Mexican or otherwise) have a fundamental right to be protected from dangerous health hazards, including emissions, and neither the Mexican government nor Adnak had the liberty to take that right way (Weiss, 2008). Using this approach, George could have argued that it was the moral and legal duty of the government to force Adnak to provide her employees with a safer and conducive working environment (Gostin, 2010). Lastly, using the Justice theory, George could have taken the decision of not relocating to the Mexican side and employing Mexican staff if the emission problem was not successfully dealt with to avoid enhancing an injustice to the Mexican employees and discriminating/treating them differently.

Conclusion and Recommendations

From the ongoing, it is highly recommended that Adnak desists from flouting environmental rules and employing underhand tactics in dealing with the issue of smokestack emissions as the organization is impinging on a fundamental right of its employees. Rather, the management should consider providing resources (financial and material) to remedy the problem and ensure the safety and health of employees as well as the community.

The above recommendation is hinged on three important reasons. First, Adnak’s employees have a right not to be exposed to environmental hazards and this right should never be violated no matter the fines imposed by EPA. Second, the OSH Act is very clear that organizations and management must never expose the health and safety of employees to harm for economic gains. Lastly, the most morally right thing to do is to provide a scenario where employees are not exposed to health hazards and risks by virtue of their engagement with Adnak.

References

Arnold, D.G., Audi, R., & Zwolinski, M. (2010). Recent work in ethical theory and its implications for business ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(4), 559-587.

Fraedrich, J. (n.d.). Something’s rotten in Hondo. Southern Illinois University.

Gostin, L.O. (2010). Mapping the issues: Public health, law, and ethics. Georgetown Law, the Scholarly Commons. Web.

Weiss, J.W. (2008). Business ethics: A stakeholder and issues management approach. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Case Study Law Ethics: “Something Rotten in Hondo”'. 4 May.

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