Viewpoint Article

Joseph Carson (
02 May 96 12:57:05 EDT

--- Forwarded Message ---

#: 480643 S0/Outbox File [MAIL]
2-May-96 10:43:00
Sb: Viewpoint Article
To: David Siegel >;Bob Seldon >internet:engcockers@aol

May 1, 1996

Mr. David Siegel

Dear David,

Here is my cut at a "Viewpoint" article for the June issue. If
you think it more appropriate to include it as a "Letter to the
Editor" instead, that's fine. If it's too long or repetitive of
points you make in your article, please suggest some edits to me.


I'm talking about "prevailing" in whistleblower reprisal cases.
I've now done it twice in the Department of Energy (DOE - and
plan to have DOE back in court later this Summer for round
three), but I don't recommend it to anyone. In fact, as David
Siegel's accompanying story details, based on what I've
experienced, I'd have to advise any potential PE whistleblower to
"look the other way, if you could live with yourself." Pretty
dismal. By my experience "prevailing" in whistleblower reprisal
means that you get to keep your job while your employer continues
to "grind you down." "Prevailing" in whistleblower reprisal is
like catching a mugger and hauling him into court only to see the
Judge dismiss the case and release the mugger scot-free while
telling you, the victim, to "be happy you got your wallet back."

As engineers when we encounter problems, we diagnose them and
determine corrective actions. I have now seen the problem of
whistleblower reprisal in the workplace "up close and personal"
(I've spent over $30,000 and 3000 hours of personal time
confronting the reprisal I've experienced in DOE since my offense
of "committing the truth" in DOE in late 1991.) PE's, this
problem requires and merits our collective action. The
engineering job market is quite competitive, as we all know.
That means unscrupulous employers of engineers know it too - so
much the better to carry out an "ethic cleansing" program, should
an engineer in their employ decide that the "Code of Ethics of
Engineers" requires them to go in harm's way.

Whistleblower reprisal is an employer's terror tactic in the
workplace. It thrives in an atmosphere of fear and greed. It
needs to be confronted scrupulously, but remorselessly. How?
Change the rules of the whistleblower reprisal game by our
collective action. I want to be able to advise a potential
engineer whistleblower, "Do the right thing and, if you suffer
reprisal, your profession will be behind you hoping that you'll
end up `laughing on your way to the bank,' while `rejoicing for
righteousness' sake.'"

So how do we change the rules? I propose two ideas completely in
the control of NSPE as a good start.

1 Establish an Engineers' Whistleblower Defense Fund by
requesting a $1.00 voluntary donation to it on the NSPE dues
statement. Via the National Institute of Engineering Ethics
(NIEE) or other engineering professional societies encourage
members of other Engineering Societies to do likewise.

The money would be used to support the Government Accountability
Project (GAP), which was established in 1977 and is a non-profit
public interest law firm. GAP specializes in representing
whistleblowers who suffer reprisal for their protected
disclosures about government or corporate violations of law or
regulation that endanger the environment or the health and safety
of the public or workers. They are the best around and they
represent their clients essentially pro bono (victims of
whistleblower reprisal have a difficult time affording attorneys
as the law doesn't allow victims of whistleblower reprisal to
receive damages, so lawyers will not represent whistleblowers on
a contingency basis.)

GAP also provides realistic advise to would-be whistleblowers and
effectively advocates improvements in whistleblower protection
laws to states and Congress. Open discussion of whistleblower
reprisal in engineering workplaces would go a long way to its
correction. Knowledge that NSPE supports, even indirectly, its
members who suffer unlawful discrimination for putting the "Code
of Ethics of Engineers" above personal considerations should have
a strong deterrent effect on unscrupulous engineer employers.
Knowledge that GAP is defending an engineer's legal attempts to
confront reprisal generally makes most employers "much more
reasonable" about resolving the situation quickly, out of court.

2 Allow the establishment of Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
within NSPE based on metaphysical principles.

At this point, NSPE allows, in effect, SIGs based on age, color,
and sex but doesn't allow SIGs based on ideas. I believe that
our Republic was founded to protect the freedom of expression of
ideas, within the law. I believe that engineers who hold similar
metaphysical ideas should be allowed to organize themselves
within their professional societies in order to better integrate,
appropriately, their metaphysical ideas into their worklives.
Anyone who risks his or her career to "blow the whistle" in
America today is either a fool or is following the dictates of
their conscience by integrating their metaphysic into their

The engineering workplace has changed dramatically in recent
years. The previously understood "lifetime employment agreement"
is largely gone and in its place is the "independent contractor"
mentality. Most engineers will have numerous employers in their
careers. As a result engineers should identify more with our
profession and less with their current employer. NSPE should be
booming in such an environment. The fact it is not, means to me
at least, that it is not doing as good a job as it should in
advancing the interests of it members. Each of us has a strong
vested interest in the active support of our Code of Ethics. The
Code of Ethics is designed to protect ethical engineers as much
as the employers, clients, and public we serve. Collectively, we
need to do a better job at protecting ourselves for adhering to

Make your voice heard. Here's what to do:

Contact the leadership of NSPE, via phone, fax, email or mail, at
the chapter, state, and national level, expressing support of
these ideas. If you are a would-be whistleblower or are
suffering reprisal for your commitment to the Code of Ethics of
Engineers, contact GAP at (202) 408-0034; fax (202) 408-9855; or
email <>. Visit GAP's homepage on the web at
<> to learn about GAP's determined
advocacy of ethical employees. Together we can make a


Joseph Carson
10953 Twin Harbour Drive
Knoxville, TN. 37922
423/966-1675 fax