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You Can Be Fired For What You Do At Home!
by Marvin Kusmierz
February 18, 2005

Employees that thought their private lives where protected from intrusion by their employer are finding out otherwise in Michigan, and nineteen other states where companies can legally implement policies for workers that go beyond the work place or job performance.

Not so.

Weyco Incorporated of Lansing, MI made the news in January when they implemented a policy that eliminates smokers from its work force. The policy is perfectly legal in Michigan and nineteen other states. To insure that employees are complying with the policy, Weyco requires workers to submit themselves to a random breath testing, those that fail or refuse the test will be fired.

  • Reference: [Feb. 15, 2005: His ultimatum: Quit smoking or lose job] - Detroit Free Press

    This month an Atlantic City hotel put in a company policy that sets a weight standard for its waitresses. Failure to meet the standard is grounds for firing.

  • Reference: [Feb. 18, 2005: New Jersey Casino to Fire Weighter Waitresses] - BusinessWeek Online

    Last October in North Carolina, an over weight widow, and mother of three kids, lost her job because she didn't fit the desired image of her employer – after being named "Employee of the Month" only a few days earlier.

  • Reference: [Waitress Claims She Was Fired Over Weight] - ABCNews.go.com
    No legals rights against employer descrimination.

    Sadly, none of the employees have legal grounds on which to seek justice from the courts in these states to protect their privacy rights. This is alarming, and it should raise a concern to everyone employed in these states – your privacy rights are tenuous at best. Your employer can set policy that has nothing to do with your work performance or what you do in the work place, and at the cost of your job if you do not comply.

    The run away costs of heath care has become the catalyst for dramatic changes in our society. Activist groups and companies are successfully using health care to constrain the legal choices of individuals, not because its right, but because they have the power to do so. The major target of this egregious power to date has been directed at smokers.

    Ehe following statement by the Chief Financial Officer of Weyco, Inc. describes the rationale being used to restrict and in some cases, punish smokers:

    "Michigan businesses, taxpayers and co-workers of smokers have the right to protect themselves from the horrendous damage caused by the self-destructive behavior of a small percentage of employees."

  • Source: [Bill would safeguard smokers.] Los Angeles Times, Inside Bay Area.
  • Popular opinion shouldn't deprive rights of individuals.

    What troubles me in this statement is the presumption that groups have the right to protect themselves from smokers by punishing them for a legal choice. Majority or popular opinion should not have the power to impose its will on the rights of individuals simply because they represent a minority opinion. It's one thing to set a standard of heathcare concerns for our society, it is quite exact punishment of those who do not comply.

    Laws and ordinances are rapidly being enacted that are removing smoking from public places. Some restaurants, and other businesses, no longer have the right to serve smokers. Legislation has been passed denying smoking from public parks, beaches and even some communities. And, now some companies are denying smokers a job.

  • Reference: [Smokefree Ordinance Lists] - Americans for Nonsmokers Rights

    It hasn't been that long ago when smoking was the social thing to do. It was considered stylish and cool – even most doctors were smokers in spite of their imitimate knowledge regarding the health problems associated with smoking. Smokers knew knew from personal experience that it was an unhealthy -- it caused excessive coughing, shortness of breath, bad breath, smelled badly and affected the taste of whatever you consumed.

    Smoking has been a part of our social fabric for centuries. Its use pre-dates the discovery of the American continents. It was Columbus who stumbled upon natives using tobacco which he brought back to Europe where it became popular. The history of every culture since has included smoking, and I might add, other habit consider unhealthy today.

  • Reference: [The History of Tobacco] - HistoryNet.com
    Smoking easy target, but dangerous airborne pollutants everywhere.

    Those that aim to eliminate smoking are using modern science to support their cause. However, smoking is not the only source of harmful pollutants in the air we breathe. Far more significant than tobacco smoker are the volumes of pollutants coming from the exhaust of factories, automobiles, airplanes, and countless other sources that we chose to tolerate.

  • Reference: [Ten Myths of the Anti-Smoking Movement] - Reason.com

    while action groups and businesses are punishing smokers, the federal government is still subsidizing tobacco growers. However, recently passed legislation end that, but not for another tens years and up to 9.6 billion dollars are spent.

  • Source (pdf file): [Big Changes for Regional Manufacturing and Tobacco Sectors.] - Legislative Update, Winter 2005.
    Tobacco settlement money used elsewhere.

    State governments have been the benefactors of the campaign against smoking. They are collecting billions each year from the tobacco settlement and taxes imposed on tobacco products. Yet, very little of this money is being used to help smokers kick the habit or reducing healthcare costs associated with smoking:

    Source: [Tobacco-Free Kids website]

    ItemTotal of StatesMichigan
    Annual Smoking Caused Health Costs$75+ billion2.65 billion
    FY 2005 Tobacco Prevention Spending$538.0$0.0
    CDC Min. Prevention Spending Target$1.6 billion$54.8
    Tobacco Prevention Spending % of CDC33.6%0.0%
    Tobacco Prevention Spending Rank--51
    FY 2005 State Tobacco Settlement Revenue.$7,055.0$258.8
    FY 2005 State Tobacco Tax Revenues.$12,911.4$1,194.9
    Total Annual State Revenues from Tobacco$19,966.6$1,453.7
    Total Prevention Spending % of Revenue2.7%0.0%

  • Source Data (pdf file): [State Tobacco-Prevention Spending vs. State Tobacco Revenue Chart] - Included all states.
  • CDC - U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Note: Mississippi had the highest percentage for Tobacco Prevention Spending as a Percent of Tobacco Revenue at 11.1%.
  • It doesn't make sense to me to punished smokers while helping tobacco growers reduce thier dependence on tobacco income. Nor, for states to take advantage of smokers to support their general budgets.

    The core issue isn't healthcare, but one of individual rights. Its fair for businesses create a company policies to protect the work place, but it isn't when intrude into worker's private lives and deny them job. Its fair for restaurants and other businesses to accomodate their customers, but it isn't fair when they discriminate against a portion of society, whether by choice or the law.

    The standards set by society has to be weighed against the rights of individuals and not what is prevailing majority opinion. Other while legal rights has no universal meaning. While majority opinion should have some influence on society, it should go beyond the power of persuasion. Federal and state governments primary concern should be in protecting individual rights. No state should have greater power reduce their citizens rights than what is offered constitutional laws of the country.

    In closing.

    I invite you consider the thoughts of John Stewart Hill who wrote "Essay On Liberty," in 1859 -- a portion of which appears below:

    "The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.:”

  • - John Stuart Mill, Essay on Liberty (Library of Liberal Arts edition, p.13)
  • Source: [Serendipity.li] Includes full text of "On Libery" by John Stuart Mill.

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