Is It Okay to Fire People Who Smoke or Are Obese?

By chillinwill · Aug 19, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Two years ago, as part of their "wellness initiative," the Cleveland Clinic stopped hiring smokers. When the Clinic's CEO, Delos M. Cosgrove, was asked about the program for an article in last weekend's New York Times Magazine, he said that if it were up to him, he would also stop hiring obese people as well.

    Clearly, lifestyle decisions lead to huge medical and financial costs to both the hospital and the country. The logic, according to Mr. Cosgrove and others who justify not hiring smokers and people who are obese, is that punitive sanctions will coerce smokers and overweight folks to live healthier lives. Not hiring them or charging them more money for insurance, according to their logic, would effectively persuade people to change harmful health practices.

    These arguments and rationale were explored in the August 16th New York Times Magazine piece "Fat Tax." Since public health campaigns have been successful in reducing smoking, the article asks, shouldn't we use similar tactics to rein in obesity?

    A few years ago, the Drug Policy Alliance anticipated that arguments used against smokers today could be used against overweight people tomorrow. We spoke out against a Michigan heath care company that fired four employees for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoked cigarettes. The company, Weyco Inc., adopted a policy that allowed them to fire employees who smoke, even if the smoking happens after business hours or at home. The company justified the firings because smokers were costing their company more money for health insurance.

    At the time, the Drug Policy Alliance created a flash animation that asked viewers to vote on whether the company should be allowed to fire employees who smoke. The flash animation laid out compelling arguments for both sides, explaining that smoking results in 400,000 premature deaths each year. But it also pointed out that smoking is not the only activity that increases health risks and costs. Smokers may be the target today, but who will be next? People who are overweight? People who ride motorcycles? Most importantly, the animation raised a powerful question: should people's private lives be subject to oversight by their employers?

    Like most people, I support campaigns to reduce smoking and obesity. I believe in public education campaigns and policies that offer help to people who are trying to quit smoking or unhealthy eating. Positive incentives like gym membership reimbursements, or cessation aids like the smoking patch or Nicorette gum, can be valuable aids to those who struggle with addiction. But by firing workers for smoking or being overweight -- and penalizing them when it comes to their health care -- we will be demonizing and marginalizing those to whom we should be reaching out.

    They fired the smokers first. Now they are talking about not hiring obese people. Your personal struggle or lifestyle choice may be next!

    By Tony Newman
    August 18, 2009
    Huffington Post

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  1. sandoz1943
    What about Gingers? People with piercings and or tattoos? People with mullets or comb overs? People who have children (kids are crawling with germs)
    Possibly even people who just seem strange or kind of ookie? At this rate everyone is fair game for some reason or another. Guess employers are just taking a que from the insurance companies if you think someone might want or need some sort of benefit get rid of them. Good thing most of us already lost our jobs when the economy went belly up. I'm a smoker and on the hit list already but not to worry I will be sure to stand up for any of the fatties out there just like they did for me.
  2. dyingtomorrow
    This makes SWIM sick, as has the demonization of smokers over the past years. SWIM has not been a smoker for most of them, but just recently taken it up again after a 8 year break, and is disgusted with the whole business and philosophy.

    The article does a good job at pointing out the fallacies and where this kind of thinking leads. Unfortunately the Supreme Court is exceptionally good at ignoring it's own precedents and coming up with a gang of BULLSHIT to accomplish whatever it wants no matter how contrary to the law or Constitution. SWIM has to admit one thing that kind of scares him about socialized healthcare in the US (even though he needs it, being a broke ass heroin addict with no money or insurance), is the likelihood that now the government will become even more zealous in trying to stomp out "risky" or "unhealthy" behavior. Both typically synonymous with fun and pleasure to SWIM. It very well could be the nail in the coffin of our civil rights, with a multi-trillion dollar incentive to "protect people from themselves."

    Makes SWIM very worried.
  3. missparkles
    First they deny you employment, to try to blackmail you into giving up risky behaviour.
    Take it one horrific step further, hypothetically speaking. Keep in mind that if the government pay the healthcare bill they have the say about how it's implemented.
    Once they identify the genetic marker for so called "risky" behaviour they could begin screening pregnant women, like they're screened now to see if their babies carry any inherited illnesses, to determine how much it's gonna cost to treat these individuals. They may even have insurance costs tagged way up in the "high" bracket before these kids are born. Why stop the future...who knows, anyone with certain genetic make up might be terminated, risky behaviour being seen as proof of a damaged human.
    Stop the problem at source, so to speak. It wouldn't be the first time people have been murdered for being different. Think 1930/40s Germany for instance. Scary fuckin' shit.
  4. cra$h
    This article brings up some legitamate points. But the philosophy on which it covers is rediculous. Just because you have an unhealthy habit, doesn't mean your productivity is. Now if smoking does have a negitive effect on a worker, then they can come to an agreement or something, but there's no need to fire someone over it. This policy of unopen arms is crippling the world. Instead of focusing on how much money they cost and how to rid of them, maybe try to find a way to reduce the cost and HELP the victum? Damn, so much to say, I don't know where to begin.
  5. missparkles
    It would be cheaper to offer therapy than it would be to retrain staff. Punishing people for lifestyle choices, just because you don't agree with them, is discriminatory.
    What about the fat, junkie bastards who run these companies, bet they don't get fired.:s Bet they all eat loads and take copious amounts of drugs...sometimes.;)


    Sparkles apologises...she's been overcome.:crazy
  6. Potter
    Sandoz: Gingers aren't people...
  7. sandoz1943
    Ohh thats a good one. You just made my day. Why is it gingers are always super hot or super ookie?

    I think that my end all be all would be that the government spends money on lots of things I do not agree with and no money at all on things I think are basic, necessary, and humane. I have paid for plenty of bombs and bullets I never asked for or wanted. I pay for surgery and medication for people who drink, practice unsafe sex, play golf in a thunder storms. Why should this be any different. It's all finger pointing. It's a ruse so people forget that for a so called "rich" nation we pay more and get less than most other industrialized nations.

    As far as corporations and insurance companies they are in it to make money. Paying out benefits is bad business and they will always deny a claim for what ever BS reason they can. They are the problem not us social lepers (smokers). As long as there is money involved we will get shafted every time.

    I find it unacceptable that "Remote Area Medical Services" and agency that usually provides care to people in third world countries is now setting up here in the U.S. to aid Americans who are uninsured or under insured. WTF. This is America. We can bail out the banks but an international relief agency has to come to the aid of U.S. citizens? How sad and evil. There are people in the world who should need this more than us. They are going without because people want to keep beating a dead horse and would rather keep a system that is irretrievably broken than be called socialist or communist. The whole stupid affair makes me feel ill too bad I can't afford to see a doctor about it.
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