Thursday, November 1, 2007

US bosses wrong to fire smokers, obese: survey

This is a start, albeit a very small start. The Americans polled still think that employers have the right to require employees to attend smoking cessation or weight loss programs (don't fire them for smoking or being fat, but make them quit smoking, make them lose weight). They also think people who smoke or "pack on the pounds" should pay higher premiums for health insurance since they are less healthy. (Okay, then I want to see all unhealthy people, no matter what their size, pay more for their health insurance. Makes about as much sense.)
Michigan-based Weyco instituted a policy in 2005 that allows employees to be laid off if they smoke, regardless of whether they engage in the habit at work or at home.

The company subsequently fired four employees who refused to be tested for nicotine, press reports said, with other reports saying Weyco staff members were fired after tests showed they had nicotine in their blood.

I have a question, since I don't know a lot about second-hand smoke. If a non-smoker lives with someone who smokes like a chimney and is therefore exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke, would the non-smoker have nicotine in their blood? If the non-smoker did, what a can of worms that would open. Joe Schmoe: "But boss, I don't smoke, it's my wife that smokes." Boss: "Too bad, you have nicotine in your blood, it's company policy that you have to be fired if your blood test comes back positive for nicotine." Fine, boss, my lawyer and I will see you in court.

So now companies are instituting these invasions of privacy in the name of health, and if you tell them it's none of their business, they will fire you. Doesn't matter how healthy you are, you are still fired because you told them to MYOB.

I really don't think the people who were polled understand that by saying unhealthy people should pay more for health insurance, they are opening the door for your boss to tell you what you can eat, what you can drink, and what you should weigh (not to mention how you should live your life, because heaven forbid you take any kind of risk that will impact your health). After all, your boss is just trying to cut health care costs, so it's reasonable for him to tell you no sky-diving (parachutes do fail, ya know), no scuba-diving (you might get bit by a shark), and for heaven's sake, don't walk out your front door, you could get hit by a car/bus/truck/lightning. Oh, don't take a bath/shower either, falls in the bath are a killer. And don't eat, you might choke on your food.


  1. And all this crap would be solved if we figured out a better way to provide health insurance than to foist it onto employers who may actually believe that they can reduce costs by demonstrating "risk reduction."


  2. I agree. There are ways of lessening risk, but there is no way to eliminate it entirely. And sometimes, even if you do everything you can to minimize risk, life still comes along and bites you in the ass with an unexpected disease, accident, or catastrophe.
    Been there done that, back in 1972. This is slightly off-topic, but back then, for about 3 weeks, every night I had the same dream. I was crossing the street after work, I would look up and see this huge white car barreling down the street at me. Scared the hell out of me, so I was being extra careful about crossing streets. Did it do me any good? Not a bit. Crossing the street one afternoon (4 lanes of traffic, with parking on either side of the street), traffic had stopped in 3 lanes to let me cross. I was in the 4th lane, looked up, and there was that fucking white car from my nightmare. I started running like hell. I don't remember the car hitting me (I didn't feel it, or don't remember feeling it), I remember flying through the air, don't remember hitting the ground. The next thing I remember was looking up at the people standing around, asking me if I was ok (DUH! I just got hit by a car, sure, I'm fine). I said yeah, but I can't get up. Ended up, my pelvis was fractured in 3 places and both bones in one lower leg were broken.
    So even though I did my damnedest to be safe crossing the street, life (fate, karma, whatev) bit me in the ass.
    Our health is the same way. You can eat all the "right" foods, get the recommended amount of exercise, not smoke, not drink to excess, and still life may hand you a disease that can kill you. Is it your fault? Nope, it's life, and shit happens. You do the best you can, and hope for the best, but you had better be prepared to deal with the worst.

  3. Oops, forgot to add: Companies need to realize that fact of life. That's why people have insurance, to cover those bites in the ass that life hands them. It spreads the risk among a large enough group of people that, hopefully, keeps everyone from getting bit at the same time and to the same degree.

  4. I don't smoke, I never have smoked, and I'm violently allergic to smoke in the air. Even so, I would probably have refused to be tested. What right do they have to test me for anything besides a standard drug test? I so hope those four employees who refused band together and file a wrongful termination suit.

  5. I smoked years ago, back when cigarettes were still under $2 a pack. I only smoked about a carton a month (most of them burned up in the ashtray because I got busy and forgot I had lit one). So I quit. I figured I had better places to spend that money, and couldn't afford to burn it. But even so, I would have refused their test, and if I were still working now, I would still refuse their test (DH has never smoked, so I'm not exposed to it at home either).
    I too hope those 4 file suit, because that's what it's going to take to keep companies from running our personal lives.

  6. Ugh. Scary stuff. I read a friend's post about how her work has instituted a (voluntary) Weight Watchers program...and that's enough to make me shudder.

  7. I'm for employer incentive programs. Don't FORCE me to lose weight or quit smoking, just make it easier. Perhaps employers could offer paying for membership to weight watchers or supplying employees with nicotine gum. This would improve the health of those who wanted to improve their health and it would leave the rest alone.

  8. professor j - how many employers are going to pay for WW/gym memberships etc when they find out that the weight loss isn't permanent? And how many employees are going to get fired for noncompliance when it's not a matter of noncompliance, it's a matter of the fact that you CAN'T make a naturally fat person thin permanently. Firing people because they are fat (and therefore unhealthy in the employer's eyes) isn't going to do anyone any good. Thin people can be unhealthy too, but no one thinks of that, because there is this misconception out there that thin is automatically healthy, even if the thin person never exercises, eats nothing but junk food, smokes to excess, drinks like a fish. That thin person is healthy JUST because he's thin.

  9. This is one of the many reasons I would really like to see a nationalized health care plan. It would be great to get our employers out of our more personal business that has no effect on job performance or safety.

    I think the one of the reason it's so bloody focused on weight and BMI is they are easily attainable numbers (well that and the truck loads of money from the weight loss industry). It takes far more effort and expense to actually get useful numbers for risk assessment. Really people who have very low BMI numbers have far greater health cost risks related to them as individuals but no one seems to be putting them on a weight gain plan at work.

  10. Maybe they should fire women who have boob jobs, as later on down the road, they could have health problems. Maybe they should fire people who've had cancer in their immediate family, because they MIGHT have cancer later on down the road. Fire all junk-food eaters. Track them down on their lunch hours, by god. Fire anyone who was BORN into a smoking household. Fire anyone who MAY HAVE BEEN in contact with asbestos or lead. Where does it END?

  11. anonymous - it's not ending, see the post about banning obese people from restaurants in MS. Enough to piss off the saints.


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