Branch, Inc. has been losing ground to its competitors in recent years.
Concerned that substance abuse may be responsible for much of Branch's decline, the
company has just adopted a policy that imposes sanctions on those employees found to be
working under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
John Crane and Andy Pullman have worked together in one of the
engineering divisions of Branch for several years. Frequently John has detected alcohol on
Andy's breath when they were beginning work in the morning and after work breaks during
the day. But, until the new policy was announced it never occured to John that he should
say anything to Andy about it, let alone tell anyone else about it. Andy's work always has
always been first rate, and John is not the kind of person who feels comfortable
discussing such matters with others.
Two days before the announcement of the new alcohol and drug policy,
Andy tells John that he is being considered for the position of head of quality control.
Although pleased at the prospect of Andy's promotion, John wonders if Andy's drinking will
get in the way of meeting his responsibilities. John worries that, with additional job
pressures, Andy's drinking problem will worsen. What should John do?
Harvey Hillman, Plant Manager at Branch, knows that Andy and John have
worked together many years. He has narrowed his choice for Head of Quality Control to Andy
and one other person. He invites John out for lunch to see if he can learn something more
about Andy from John. Should John volunteer information about Andy's drinking? Suppose
Harvey says, "This is a really important decision. We need a top person for the
quality control job. We've had some real problems the last few years with shoddy
production, probably because of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace. I had to move
Jack Curtis out of head of quality control because he was drunk on the job. We have
to get this under control. The new policy might help. But quality control will still have
to keep a really close eye on things." Should John say anything now?
Branch's policy on the use of alcohol and drugs has been in effect for
a year. It does not seem to have made a significant difference. Absenteeism is still high.
Shoddy workmanship continues. And Branch's profit margins are still declining. Management
is now proposing mandatory random drug testing for its non-professional workforce, and
mandatory drug testing for all new workers. The labor union protests that such a policy is
undesirable in two respects. First, it is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of
workers. Second, exempting professionals from the testing is discriminatory and,
therefore, unjust. Since John knows you have a longstanding, serious interest in ethics,
he asks you what you think about the two concerns of the union.