Engineering Ethics - Did I overreact? underreact?

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kwyjibo

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Here's a situation;

I was asked to sign/seal a set of drawings. I'm not a employee in a position that takes charge for work either.

I rejected sealing on several grounds. First, I'm not a subject matter expert of the type of design and calculations to be certified. Secondly, I don't have the license in that state. And third, told to 'relax' because 'we have insurance'.

I was further pressed that this 'had to be done' and to stop 'looking for attention'. In my opinion, this should be a question of why someone in a position that could take charge of the work doesn't have a PE and why this responsibility gets kicked down the road. Regardless, there's no way to force someone to sign and seal drawings.

I offered a resignation if I were to be further pressed. Ultimately, it's my reputation and livelihood at stake. This has received mixed feedback that I blew everything out of proportion and shouldn't have offered a resignation but instead used this as an opportunity to negotiate a promotion/raise/etc. Some have said I should have resigned on a spot and started searching for another job.
 

civilrobot PE etc etc

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Here's a situation;

I was asked to sign/seal a set of drawings. I'm not a employee in a position that takes charge for work either.

I rejected sealing on several grounds. First, I'm not a subject matter expert of the type of design and calculations to be certified. Secondly, I don't have the license in that state. And third, told to 'relax' because 'we have insurance'.

I was further pressed that this 'had to be done' and to stop 'looking for attention'. In my opinion, this should be a question of why someone in a position that could take charge of the work doesn't have a PE and why this responsibility gets kicked down the road. Regardless, there's no way to force someone to sign and seal drawings.

I offered a resignation if I were to be further pressed. Ultimately, it's my reputation and livelihood at stake. This has received mixed feedback that I blew everything out of proportion and shouldn't have offered a resignation but instead used this as an opportunity to negotiate a promotion/raise/etc. Some have said I should have resigned on a spot and started searching for another job.
Without question, what you were asked to do was wrong. You reacted in a reasonable way. When that happens, people will try to make you feel like you're crazy. You're not. Well done.
 
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Agreed. You responded correctly.
"We have insurance" is a BS rationale. Even if insurance covers you in case of a failure (I'm assuming you're specifically listed on the policy.) That doesn't help when your state board comes to discipline you for stamping something inappropriately.

IF you were licensed in the appropriate state, and IF you had the expertise in the subject matter, and the only issue was that you're not in a position to be the EOR for the work, then it might have made sense to negotiate a promotion since they obviously need a PE to serve as EOR. But the specifics of this situation are pretty absurd. I'd seriously consider looking for a new more ethical company.
 

CivilPEMike

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I think you handled it correctly. If you aren’t licensed in the state then you can’t legally do it. However, you could ask your firm to pay to get you licensed in that state, which would be good for your resume. Also, if you are placed in a position of greater responsibility, you should be compensated for it. Sounds like a win-win for you. Good luck.
 

Crockett85

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I think you acted reasonably and responsibly. Your employer was wrong to ask you to do all of those things. I'm not sure if I would resign on the spot, but I would definitely be looking for another employer. If you said yes to stamping this one drawing, there is no stopping your employer from asking you to break the rules again in the future. If the employer is taking liberties like this now, what other liberties are they taking in other areas? From now until the time you leave, I would keep my eyes wide open for any other land mines.
 

Lady PE

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I'd like to chime in here, but just to agree with the other previous commenters. The professional engineering canons are clear that we don't sign/ seal work that is beyond our personal expertise. That is bad enough, but you could be subject to disciplinary action for sign/ sealing work for a state in which you are not licensed. Moreover, the agency who would be ultimately accepting the plans may notice that your seal is not that state's seal, creating further issues. And - I just thought of this: Your firm's certificate of authorization could be suspended or revoked for what would be deemed as a deceptive act.

You did not overreact. Offering to resign let your employer know that you were serious about integrity and ethics. If you do stay with that company, maybe you can use this as an opportunity to (1) get yourself in responsible charge of more projects, which should earn you a raise, and (2) get licensed in other states at the company's expense.
 

Reverse Polish

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I offered a resignation if I were to be further pressed. Ultimately, it's my reputation and livelihood at stake. This has received mixed feedback that I blew everything out of proportion and shouldn't have offered a resignation but instead used this as an opportunity to negotiate a promotion/raise/etc. Some have said I should have resigned on a spot and started searching for another job.

It's your behind on the line, so it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. You acted appropriately.

Was it your direct supervisor who attempted to coerce you into sealing drawings? The only thing I might add is, you may wish to document the specifics of this event in the form of a written memorandum, including citations of your state's laws, regulations, code of ethics and the ASCE canons as appropriate, and deliver it to the direct supervisor of the person who pressured you. Otherwise, you may leave yourself open to future coercion, or worse, misguided retribution within your company.
 

Pra4surf1

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Appreciate and grateful all the feedback, advice, and reassurances that "I am not alone" in my stance/position.

Given all the circumstances, this made my decision easy as to where I would take my career.
Great job on your part! Did you find another job yet? If not let me know I may be able to hook you up depending on where you live. Good friend of mine is the engineering manager for a company with multiple locations along the gulf and east coast and he has openings.
 

DanHalen

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If you're in doubt whether you made the right decision go take a look at the latest disciplinary action your state board has taken in the past quarter. I get an email update from my board and I take a look at some of the disciplinary actions taken. They are strict and can be harsh. You did the right thing and it's time to leave that employer in your rear view mirror.
 

MambaMentality24

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Here's a situation;

I was asked to sign/seal a set of drawings. I'm not a employee in a position that takes charge for work either.

I rejected sealing on several grounds. First, I'm not a subject matter expert of the type of design and calculations to be certified. Secondly, I don't have the license in that state. And third, told to 'relax' because 'we have insurance'.

I was further pressed that this 'had to be done' and to stop 'looking for attention'. In my opinion, this should be a question of why someone in a position that could take charge of the work doesn't have a PE and why this responsibility gets kicked down the road. Regardless, there's no way to force someone to sign and seal drawings.

I offered a resignation if I were to be further pressed. Ultimately, it's my reputation and livelihood at stake. This has received mixed feedback that I blew everything out of proportion and shouldn't have offered a resignation but instead used this as an opportunity to negotiate a promotion/raise/etc. Some have said I should have resigned on a spot and started searching for another job.
You acted properly in that situation, although it seems like you're better off finding a company that will respect your PE license and its limitations. Remember, if something goes wrong the company will replace you while you're left with lawsuits on your own and possibly your PE license revoked. Not worth it.
 

youngmotivatedengineer

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Appreciate and grateful all the feedback, advice, and reassurances that "I am not alone" in my stance/position.

Given all the circumstances, this made my decision easy as to where I would take my career.
The practices of the company definitely sounds shady and you should look for other employment. At this point, watch out for any retaliation they may try to get by giving negative referrals to potential future employers. When you go for interviews, you may want to try to be vague on the specifics in case the interviewers personally know your current bosses and claim that you may be spreading rumors. You may also want to reach out to an attorney to see if you would need to submit a report to the state Board of Engineers. If an incident occurs in the future and the company is found liable for improper engineering sign-off, they could potentially go after you also if there is documentation of your interaction on this issue, but no formal complaint files by you to the Board. The 1st code of ethic for NSPE is "hold paramount the safety,health, and welfare of the public". Knowing that a company/person is having plans signed by unqualified Engineers and not reporting it could make you liable also.
 

kwyjibo

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The practices of the company definitely sounds shady and you should look for other employment. At this point, watch out for any retaliation they may try to get by giving negative referrals to potential future employers. When you go for interviews, you may want to try to be vague on the specifics in case the interviewers personally know your current bosses and claim that you may be spreading rumors. You may also want to reach out to an attorney to see if you would need to submit a report to the state Board of Engineers. If an incident occurs in the future and the company is found liable for improper engineering sign-off, they could potentially go after you also if there is documentation of your interaction on this issue, but no formal complaint files by you to the Board. The 1st code of ethic for NSPE is "hold paramount the safety,health, and welfare of the public". Knowing that a company/person is having plans signed by unqualified Engineers and not reporting it could make you liable also.
Eventually someone was found with the appropriate license, experience, and expertise to seal the drawings. This was not without a even bigger stink. With that said, it was a situation that could have been avoided if someone wasn't trying to "expedite" something for a client.

I have sought legal counsel. I was not only worried about this situation but also any recourse had I violated any non-competes or business agreements by defecting to a competitor. I already suspect that some form of retaliation has been levied already as several opportunities have fallen through recently. While it is very hard to prove, it seemed all to coincidental that second interviews were suddenly cancelled and hiring managers started ghosting after saying a offer letter is on the way. Ironically, those positions are all still being advertised.

I'm just going to take this as a sign to take a break from engineering , maybe change careers, or simply have a summer off for the first time in over a decade.
 

youngmotivatedengineer

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The EOR should have been involved from day 1, so who knows if the guy they got did a thorough review or just signed off because he didn't care.

If you enjoyed your work, don't let this company end your career. You may not have gotten the other jobs, but that doesn't mean the right position isn't out there. There are companies out there who will value your integrity and the fact that you did what you believed in.

If you really want 1 of the positions you interviewed for, reach out to them again (including the HR managers), and let them know you would like to discuss your application and the reason why you were not a good fit for their company. Let them know that you think your previous employermayhave given them false information about you and you would likethe chance to clear up any concerna. If they still decide to ignore you, maybe those companies are just as bad.
 
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