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Ever find yourself in a sticky ethical situation? Mr. Ethics has your back! Mr. Ethics is here to take your questions and give you his input on how to best deal with your situation. Have a question for Mr. Ethics? Send it to info@professionalconstructor.org and he may respond to you here on the Mr. Ethics Blog.

 

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Mr. Ethics - October 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

We are going through a code of ethics violation complaint investigation in our office.  One of our estimators told us that another estimators discussed a bid with a competitor at a local association meeting.  As our investigation progressed we could not find any support for the complaint.  We advised the accusing estimator we were unable to find any evidence to support the claim and were going to discontinue the investigation.  The estimator said he understood because he really did not hear the other estimator’s conversation.  He saw the estimator talking to the competitor and just assumed he disclosed bid information because we lost the contract the next day. The question we are wrestling with is whether we need to disclose this information to the accused estimator and start an ethics action against the accuser.  The fallout that could occur by taking either or both actions seems to not worth the trouble.

 

Regards, Ethics Investigator

 

Dear Investigator,

 

I am sure that one of your ethical canons references the making of false accusations.  In my opinion I do not think you have a choice but to consider the accuser’s actions to be a potential ethical violation.  I know it may have a chilling effect on people reporting potential ethical violations in the future but everyone needs to know that accusing another of an ethical violation is a serious action and they need to make sure they are not violating a canon.  I also think it is essential you discuss this with the accused individual.  It appears there are some underlying issues between these two (2) employees that needs to be ferreted out and resolved.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics.

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Mr. Ethics - September 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

My company regularly gives to a political action committee run by a construction association.  The purpose of the PAC is to promote construction issues to our state legislature and governor.  We always give in accord with the laws governing political contributions.  The PAC association has asked us to host at our company facilities a political round table where construction industry and government elected officials will discuss construction issues in our state.  The even would carry the PAC as the host and we are only supplying the location, food and drink.  This is a good opportunity for us and the industry.  I haven’t said yes to the request because something keeps nagging at me that this might not be the right thing to do.  Can you give me some direction?

 

Regards, Politically Active

 

Dear Active,

 

Donating to candidates and PAC’s is ethical and legal so long as all rules for doing so are followed.  An engineering firm was recently forced to close its doors because it was found to have made its employees contribute to certain candidates.  The firm then reimbursed its employees.  A practice that was neither ethical nor legal.  My concern regarding your opportunity is that if you bid public projects.  If you do public work your hosting of the PAC event could be perceived as a violation of public bidding and contract award codes of conduct and law.  It could be argued that you sought to deliberately influence public officials in order to get contracts.  I would decline the offer for ethical concerns and possible exposure to legal action.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics. 

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Mr. Ethics - August 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

What should we consider when entering a project contract with a code of conduct provision?

 

Regards, Ethically Aware

 

 

Dear Ethically,

 

Obviously knowing the obligations created by the code of conduct is paramount. Those terms and conditions will set how you should act and what you need to do outside of complying with the code.  If you are performing services on a project and the code requires you to admit to any errors or work defects performed by you; you could run afoul of your professional liability insurance policy.  Insurance carriers want to know where claims may come from before you admit to any liability.  The carrier can argue that you prejudiced their rights by not contacting the carrier first.  Additionally, a failure to comply with the code can result in the imposition of fines or the termination of your agreement.  Any damages arising from either of those actions are not covered by insurance.  As I have previously said, contractual codes of conducts are good but you have to understand the potential consequence of not complying with the code.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics.    

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Mr. Ethics - July 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

I saw one of my project foremen using the company pick-up truck to haul cut fire wood.  My foreman said he has a side firewood cutting and deliver business.  We are allowed to use company trucks for personal use but not on side businesses.  The side businesses contemplated by the company are industry related like home remodeling, painting, and handyman services.  He is a great worker and his family sure can use the extra money.  Am I under an ethical obligation to report this use to my bosses?

 

Regards, Conflicted Project Manager

 

Dear PM,

 

You need to talk to the employee about finding another way to haul the firewood.  The use of the truck is a clear violation of company policy and he needs to recognize same. If he should get into an accident while hauling firewood both he and the company can be in real trouble.  It is also likely that in such a situation the employee will say, at some point, you knew about his side business.  Also, this sounds like a lot of wear and tear on the vehicle that both of you are responsible for maintaining on behalf of the company.  You need to speak to the employee and if he refuses to change his ways you need to act ethically and advise the company.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics.

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Mr. Ethics - June 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

I am going to leave my current employer for a cross town rival.  Before I give my two (2) week notice I want to take my paid two (2) week vacation.  I am pretty sure my company will let me go once I give my notice because of the competition between the two (2) companies.  I have about four (4) weeks before I need to start my new job.  I told my new employer my plan and he is fine with it.  He would like me to look over a couple of jobs when on vacation so I can hit the floor running.  Not surprisingly they are projects my current firm plans on bidding.  Should I look over those jobs while on my two (2) paid vacation?  My current employer has been very good to me.

 

Regards, Beach Bound

 

Dear Beach,

 

The question you should really be asking is whether it is ethical for you not to tell your current employer immediately that you have a new job.  I am sure that your bosses do not want you around projects that they will be bidding.  I may be nice to use your vacation time but those are some of the things you may need to sacrifice when you change jobs.  If you do not tell your boss immediately that you are leaving you might end up burning a bridge that may be worth in the future more than a two (2) week paid vacation.  By the way, my opinion on this does not change if you said the reason you’re leaving is because your current company has never treated you right.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics

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