What has happened during the past 24 hours and wonders what she should do next – if anything.
Janet Garner works in record-keeping as an administrative assistant for Eco-Waste Environmental Services (EWES), a small waste disposal company.
EWES has enjoyed a strong reputation for ethical leadership in the waste management industry. In fact, the slogan the company uses in advertising and promotional materials is as follows: “Eco-Waste: Safe, Efficient, and Ethical Waste Disposal.”
In just three years with EWES, Janet has been promoted twice and has had three salary increases. Divorced and still in her 30s, and with two young children, she has come to love EWES’ flexible schedule, 4 weeks’ paid vacation, and generous health and dental insurance programs. From Janet’s perspective, everyone at EWES appears to do what is expected of them and all routinely recommend EWES as a good place to work. Janet seems to have found the perfect place to work.
Yesterday, however, Janet’s universally positive opinions about her employer were challenged. She now sits in her office reflecting upon what has happened during the past 24 hours and wonders what she should do next – if anything.
During a visit to the copy room yesterday, Janet accidentally came across a large envelope marked ‘CONFIDENTIAL.’ Always a curious person, she decided to take a quick peek inside and learned that her employer has been disposing some of a hospital client’s medical waste in a local municipal landfill. Janet was shocked. “Isn’t this illegal?” she wondered to herself. She quickly read through the documents, left them in the copy room, and departed.
Back in her office, Janet searched the internet and found that dumping ‘trace amounts’ of toxic medical waste is largely unavoidable and, if not proven to be intentional, is not against any law. But Janet suspected from the internal documents that her company (EWES) is intentionally dumping more than ‘trace’ amounts, though she couldn’t find on the internet any definition of what a ‘trace’ amount is. “This is crazy,” she thought to herself, “our competitive advantage is that our customers think we’re ethical!”
As she searched the internet for more information regarding acceptable versus unacceptable amounts of medical waste dumping, Janet was surprised to find that, in cases where small (more than ‘trace’) landfill amounts have been linked back to a waste disposal company, the government has not prosecuted violators. Perhaps most disturbing to Janet was her finding that, in cases where a company intentionally and improperly dumped large amounts of such medical waste in landfills, the offending companies only suffered fines; the government has never pursued criminal charges in any of the waste disposal cases!
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