1/25/2005

Stop smoking, dammit

Taking the fight against smoking to a new level, some companies are firing workers for smoking - even if they don't smoke in the office.

A Michigan health care company has fired four of its employees for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoke cigarettes.

The company enacted a new policy this month, allowing workers to be fired if they smoke, even if the smoking takes place after-hours, or at home.

The founder of Weyco Inc. said the company doesn't want to pay the higher health care costs associated with smoking.
I have a hard time coming down firmly on either side of the fence with regard to this issue. On one hand, I support the right of employers to decide for themselves who they choose to employ. On the other hand, it does seem unfair to punish someone for something that's legal if they don't do it in the office.

It's not hard to see where this idea got its origin: state lawsuits designed to recover costs related to the medical care of smokers. If state governments can go to court to recover these costs, it logically follows that employers should be allowed to take steps to avoid incurring those costs in the first place. After all, most employers that provide health care to their workers pay a significant portion of those insurance premiums. If a company can get lower premiums by guaranteeing a smoke-free workforce, why not do it?

My concern about this sort of thing is not for the smokers (stupid filthy disgusting obnoxious habit); it's more for what I see coming down the road. If it becomes commonly accepted to terminate smokers because of the health care costs associated with smoking, that mindset could very easily be extended to someone who falls into the category of overweight or obese. How'd you like to come back from Christmas vacation and have to worry that the family dinner may have cost you your job?

That may sound silly, but it was silly just a few years ago to think that people might sue fast-food restaurants for making them fat.