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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 and he may respond to you here on the Mr. Ethics Blog.


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Plan Shy

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,


We have been contracted to reconstruct a landmark theater that was recently destroyed by fire. The theater was originally designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wrights who obtained a level of notoriety of their own.  The theater owner has found the original plans and has given them to use to use to reconstruct the theater.  One of my partners remembers hearing about a lawsuit involving a project architect’s and contractor’s use of someone else’s drawings.  Do you know anything about this lawsuit or have any ethical concerns about us proceeding as requested by the owner?


Regards, Plan Shy



Dear Plan,  


This is a familiar situation where ethics and the law converge.  It is unethical to use the plans and specifications of another design professional unless there has been provided written permission to do so.  Using the designs of another without their permission can also result in a copyright infringement claim.  Suits are regularly filed by either the design professional or their heirs over alleged unauthorized use of their plans.  You need to find out from the owner if the owner has the written permission of the original architect to use the plans.  You should also contact counsel to see if you also should get an indemnification from the owner for any copyright claims that may arise.  Ethics and law say you should not use someone else’s documents without knowing if there is permission to do same.


Regards, Mr. Ethics

Tags:  Ethics  Lawsuit  Planning 

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Ethically Punished

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,

We are involved in one of those government projects that provide us with a monetary reimbursement for every disadvantaged business we hire. We are now being threatened with project termination because we did something good. The owner of one of disadvantaged businesses died suddenly. The heirs were going to shut down the company so we stepped in to keep the employees working by paying them directly. We thought that was the ethical thing to do. The government says we assumed control of the company to keep that reimbursement going. I thought there were supposed to get good karma for acting ethically.

Regards, Ethically Punished


Dear Punished,

There is no guarantee you will be rewarded for acting ethically. That also should not be the reason you act ethically. Also, acting ethically is perceived differently by different parties. The employees see your actions as ethical but the government wanted to see you advise it of what was occurring. By not disclosing your actions the government views your action as unethical. Think in the broadest terms possible when faced with an ethical situation. I think I am a broken record because of my advocacy of advising a project owner of everything.

Tags:  Construction  Ethics  Government  Mr. Ethics 

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