In the picture, there are two hands. The right hand is holding a clipboard with some paper on it. The left hand is holding a pen, like it's checking something off on the paper.

The People: 

Ashish, Javon and Madison – Members of a team that review documentation to verify that safety inspections are taking place and are conducted correctly

Julia – Their supervisor

Charles – A building access technician in the Technology Services department

Diane – Another building access technician in the Technology Services department

The Setting:

An office in the Technology Services department

The Event:

While reviewing some inspection reports, Ashish, Javon and Madison start noticing things that don’t add up.

Ashish: I’m looking at the building access inspection reports and I’m seeing some things that don’t look right.

Javon: What do you mean?

Ashish: Well, if you pull-up the reports from the first week of May, you start to see a string of reports that all show the same inspection date. But we’re talking about inspecting all of the building access points for all of the buildings on West Franklin Street and Broad Street. How is it possible to inspect all of those doors and windows for all of those buildings in one day?

Madison: It’s not. Are you sure they all show the same date?

Ashish: Yes, they do.

Javon: Could it have been a bunch of inspections done by different people on the same day?

Ashish: Let me look…Wait. Look at the name of the person that signed the inspection for this report: Charles Simmons. Aaaaand…the person who signed this other inspection was also Charles Simmons, and he signed off on this one and this one…

(The team reviews all of the inspection reports submitted for that day, and Charles Simmons signed them all).

Ashish: Wow. This just doesn’t seem right. We need to say something.

Madison: What are you going to say?

Ashish: I don’t know yet, but someone has to. If these inspections weren’t actually done, that means there could be doors and windows in buildings across the university where the building access system isn’t working. So, if the sensor on one of those doors or windows malfunctions and goes undetected, anyone with or without a VCU badge could get in…

Madison:…and take whatever they wanted.

Javon: …or hurt somebody. Yeah, someone needs to say something.

Madison: Well, I can’t say anything. I know Charles Simmons and I don’t want to get him in trouble.

Javon: Yeah, but this could be a significant security risk.

Ashish: I’ll talk to Julia. She’ll know what to do.

(A few minutes later, Ashish knocks on the door to the office of their supervisor, Julia)

Julia: Hi, Ashish! What’s up?

Ashish: Well, Madison, Javon and I were doing a review of building access inspection reports and…

(Ashish proceeds to explain what they discovered).

Julia: Ok. Thanks for letting me know about this. I’ll take care of it!

Ashish: Ok, thanks, Julia!

(But after several weeks, Charles Simmons is still doing inspections and submitting reports. Ashish notices that some of the reports are dated for days when Charles wasn’t even working.)

Ashish: (To self) I really don’t know what to do. I keep thinking about people being able to open doors without having to swipe their badge, or open windows without the alarm system going off. I have seen some alerts about thefts around campus, and this would only make them easier. But what if something worse were to happen? I don’t know whether Julia did anything after I talked to her, but I feel like I need to take it above her head in case she didn’t. I think I’m going to call the helpline…

(Ashish calls the VCUHelpline and reports the situation. His report is routed to the Human Resources Department, who contacts Charles Simmons to say he is the subject of a report alleging falsified inspection reports. Charles panics after he talks to them and calls another member of his team – Diane – who also performs inspections).

Charles: Hey, Diane, it’s Charles.

Diane: Hey, Charles! How are ya?

Charles: Not so good. Listen, HR just called me and said that someone reported that I was falsifying inspection reports. There are some reports dated for days when I wasn’t there. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. As you know, I have a lot going on at home right now…

Diane: You sure do. I’m not sure how I can help, though, Charles.

Charles: Diane, I need to ask a favor. Can you vouch for me? I know I screwed up, but I really can’t lose my job. I promise I will get it together and I won’t do it again. Can I tell HR that you were with me when I did those inspections?

Diane: (Long pause) Charles…..I am really uncomfortable with what you are asking and I think I’m going to hang up, now. I’m sorry. Goodbye, Charles.

(After the call, Diane is stunned. She knows Charles is going through some challenges, but she can’t believe what he has asked her to do. If she lies for Charles, it could jeopardize her own job. Diane decides to report what has happened and calls Human Resources).

The Takeaway:

Oftentimes, persistence pays off. And sometimes, it takes more than one person to speak up before things change. If Ashish hadn’t escalated the situation by calling the Helpline when he saw that Charles was still falsifying reports, even after he’d reported it to his supervisor, Charles might still be doing it. And if Diane hadn’t called HR to report that Charles had asked her to lie for him, her job would be on the line, too.

Ultimately, by being persistent and by speaking up when something was wrong, these two employees preserved the integrity of the inspection process and potentially saved property, and people, from harm.

One of the reasons the VCUHelpline exists is for employees who don’t feel like their concerns are being taken seriously by the people closest to the situation. If you speak up and nothing changes, remember that there are multiple channels available to you for reporting misconduct. And if anyone asks you to cover for them when they are under investigation, do the right thing and report that behavior, too.

By being persistent and performing our jobs with integrity we can ensure that we all enjoy a safe – and ethical – workplace.

The names, department and details of this case were changed to protect those people actually involved in the case.

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