When is Whistle-Blowing Morally Justified?

by Josephson Institute on March 22, 2011

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

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Employees who blow the whistle on their company for perceived wrongdoing face risks that range from termination to less desirable assignments or exclusion from social invitations.  Despite these possible risks, employees may be morally justified to blow the whistle under the following conditions identified by Richard DeGeorge in the book Business Ethics.

  1. When the firm through a policy or product will commit serious and substantial harm to the public (as consumers or bystanders), the employee should report the firm.
  2. When the employee identifies a serious threat to those who may be harmed, he or she should report it and state his or her moral concern.
  3. When the employee’s direct supervisor does not act, the employee should use the internal procedures and chain of command up to the board of directors.
  4. The employee must have documented evidence that is convincing to a reasonable, impartial observer that his or her view of the situation is accurate and that the firms’ practice, product, or policy seriously threatens and puts in danger the public and/or product user.
  5. The employee must have valid reasons to believe that revealing the wrongdoing to the public will result in the necessary changes to remedy the situation. The chance of succeeding must be equal to the risk and danger the employee takes to blow the whistle.

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