Sample Case 1
Ethics and Social Responsibility Case
A New Concern for Human Resource Managers: Whistle-Blowing
dedicates a front cover of its magazine to a “Person of the Year.”
year, for example, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuilani was given such an honor for
his handling of New York’s 9/11 terrorist crisis.
expanded its version of
the person of the year.
It dedicated its cover to “Persons of the Year.” The magazine
identified three women working in unrelated fields who had at least one common
characteristic—they were all “Whistle-Blowers.”
The term whistle-blower is defined by the third edition of The American Heritage
College Dictionary as “One who brings wrong doing within an organization to light.”
The etymology of the term whistle-blower is quite interesting and can be attributed to
several sources: the police used whistles in early times as a communication signal and
trains used their whistles to communicate warning signals. Today, the term whistle-
blower has a mixed meaning: it can have a negative connation in certain sectors with
whistle-blowers being called, among other words, “traitor,” “turncoat,” and “rat.”
can have a positive connation with whistle-blowers being called heroes.
The three women profiled as Time’s Persons of the Year fall into that latter category.
They “did the right thing” by informing their respective bosses of wrongdoings such as
mismanagement, law breaking, and fraud. In essence, these brave women refused to keep
their eyes and mouths closed.
Persons of the Year
Coleen Rowley (FBI); Sherron Watkins (Enron); and Cynthia Cooper (WorldCom)—
three career women—all worked for very high profile organizations and all were whistle-
Rowley, an FBI staff attorney, after keeping quiet about the agency’s
failure to take seriously a situation regarding French Moroccan Zacarias Moussaoui, the
terrorist involved in the destruction of the World Trade Centers in New
York, drafted a memo about the situation and gave copies to FBI Director Robert Mueller
and two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Cooper, a WorldCom vice
president, informed the board of WorldCom about inflated profit of nearly $4 billion
through its accounting practices; and finally Watkins, an Enron vice president, informed
Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay about improper accounting methods used by the company.
Like all whistle blowers, these three women placed themselves in very precarious
positions with regard to physical and emotional health, privacy, and especially
employment, since these women were the main financial supporters of their
households—two of them had “stay at home” husbands.
Rowley who had spent nearly 23 years at the FBI and was some two years away from