Thursday, June 09, 2005

Nutbag Employers: You're Mine, All The Time?

This is from last month, but I just stumbled upon it. My comments follow the article:

(May 12) - More companies are taking action against employees who smoke off-duty, and, in an extreme trend that some call troubling, some are now firing or banning the hiring of workers who light up even on their own time.

The outright bans raise new questions about how far companies can go in regulating workers' behavior when they are off the clock. The crackdown is coming in part as a way to curb soaring health care costs, but critics say companies are violating workers' privacy rights. The zero-tolerance policies are coming as more companies adopt smoke-free workplaces.

· Weyco, a medical benefits provider based in Okemos, Mich., this year banned employees from smoking on their own time. Employees must submit to random tests that detect if someone has smoked. They must also agree to searches of briefcases, purses or other belongings if company officials suspect tobacco or other banned substances have been brought on-site. Those who smoke may be suspended or fired.

· At Investors Property Management in Seattle, smokers are not hired. Employees who smoked before the ban was passed about two years ago are not fired; however, they can't get medical insurance through the company.

· Alaska Airlines has a no-smoking policy for employees, and new hires must submit to a urine test to prove they're tobacco-free.

"The debate has gone from where they can smoke to whether they can smoke," says Marshall Tanick, a Minneapolis-based employment lawyer.

Such bans are not legal everywhere: More than 20 states have passed laws that bar companies from discriminating against workers for lifestyle decisions.

There are other ways that companies are taking action against off-duty smoking, such as raising health care premiums for smokers.

Employers say it's about creating a healthy workforce. But it's also a bottom-line issue: Tobacco causes more than 440,000 deaths annually and results in more than $75 billion in direct medical costs a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legal experts fear companies will try to control other aspects of employees' off-duty lifestyle, a trend that is already happening. Some companies are firing, suspending or charging higher insurance premiums to workers who are overweight, have high cholesterol or participate in risky activities.

Now, I don't smoke cigarettes; I gave them up years ago when I got pregnant with my first child. But this...this is just plain ridiculous, folks. What you do in the workplace IS the business of your boss...but what you do at home? That's your fucking castle, not the boss'. If you want to smoke cigarettes naked while dancing the fandango, that's your own damned business.

When did America become such a nosey country? For crying out loud...firing people for being FAT? Unless the job is "supermodel," what the fuck is all that about? And losing your job because you like to rock climb or your cholesterol's on the high side? Fascism, people, pure and simple. Next it will be men with low sperm counts and women with PMS. Mark my words.

Oy vey.



At 7:06 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Gotta disagree with you on this one. I get the impression that being a non-smoker is a condition of employment... you agree to it when you are hired... and then the companies are just enforcing that condition.
Smokers cost the company in terms of insurance premiums, and in lost productivity (more sick days). So I don't see why a company should be forced to hire a smoker. Plus, It is not fair to the non-smoking employees who have to shoulder the burden.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Jim: the problem I see is that companies are enforcing this retroactively...people who have smoked & worked for the company for years now will lose their insurance and/or job...and that's not right.

And where do we draw the line? There are companies literally wanting to refuse to hire or be allowed to fire someone with high cholesterol! That's just outrageous to me.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Pixie LaRouge said...

Next up: firing people like me who will have high blood pressure starting in my early 40s. I have no health problems at present (not counting the 'flu that's kicking my ass today, but ALL of the women in my family are diagnosed with high blood pressure right about 42. Well, darn folks, I might have a stroke (not that any of them have, yet, but it could happen, I suppose).

Anyone else thinking "Brave New World"?


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