Reader Forum

Moral issues in the corporate world I usually enjoy reading the Human Side articles in PLANT ENGINEERING , but I have to say after reading the "When work and religious observance conflict" story, I am sorely disappointed at the verdict formed. Just because the receptionist shares the same religious background as the animals that brutally attacked our country in September, it makes her no...
By Staff February 15, 2002

Moral issues in the corporate world

I usually enjoy reading the Human Side articles in PLANT ENGINEERING , but I have to say after reading the “When work and religious observance conflict” story, I am sorely disappointed at the verdict formed. Just because the receptionist shares the same religious background as the animals that brutally attacked our country in September, it makes her no more guilty than German descendants of Nazi war criminals or European descendants of slave owners. How can you force Asa to work in a job that demands that she be out of contact with the public simply because of her religion?

I am an African American process engineer, and if my employer asked me not to put myself in contact with its customer base because some of them were descendants of former slaver owners or Nazis, I can tell you where my next stop would be: to an excellent civil rights attorney to sue for civil rights discrimination and harassment. Asa was hired and is still employed because of her satisfactory skills and expertise. End of story. Does she have any connection to terrorists group in or outside the country? Is she under federal investigation for treason, espionage or terrorists acts? If no, I suggest you rethink your position.

Harassing innocent people, constantly living in fear of extremists, and profiling the innocent simply because they share a predetermined (sometimes genetic) characteristic of the guilty is the main goal of terrorists and racists. No company in a million years would follow this advice if it didn’t want a battle with the ACLU and countless other organizations who have fought for years to ensure that this great nation of ours remains the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” We, the people means exactly that. The forefathers, although erroneous on other measures of Constitutional law, did not install the phrase, We, the Christians; we, the non-Muslims, or we, the nonfemales, for a very good reason. Forcing Asa to work in another department would be tantamount to the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII — a bad idea and an even worse era in this country’s rich history. — Lakeysha D. Garrett, process engr. I

Ray’s response:

I first of all want to thank Mr./Ms. Garrett for broadening the perspective on this case. From a moral and ethical standpoint I couldn’t agree more with what he/she says. However, life in the corporate world is never simple. I view Plant Engineer John Duggan as a decent executive caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

On the one hand he wanted to do the “right thing” by Asa. On the other, he felt obligations to the company’s customers and stockholders. He saw transferring Asa as a compromise, however imperfect, that addressed both responsibilities. I discussed the case with Human Case expert/educator-consultant-arbitrator Len Smith. He points out that from a civil rights standpoint Duggan did not discriminate against Asa’s religious beliefs. There was no threat of discrimination, and she was not asked to shed her head dress. Nor was there a loss of pay benefits or seniority. Thus, he sees no viable civil rights case.

I recall reading a lawyer quote recently that went, “Anyone can be sued for anything any time,” so I can’t say with certainty how a particular attorney given this case would proceed. What would I, in Duggan’s place, have decided? I’m not sure but I can’t fault his decision. The question also arises: Would Asa have been comfortable in the job had she rejected the transfer? Did this critical consideration influence her decision to accept it? Had she vehemently opposed the transfer, what steps would I have taken? Good question. I wouldn’t like to be in that spot, and I suspect neither would Duggan. — Ray Dreyfack, contributing editor