Thursday, May 12, 2005

MH - Just How Far Can the Company Come Into Your Life?

I saw a story on Fox News this evening regarding an increasing trend for companies to fire employees who smoke, even if they're smoking on their own time, in their own home. Reason given - it's the employer's business, since they're paying a portion of the employee's health care benefits, and costs can expect to be higher for the employer as a result of health-related medical issues unique (or more prevalent) to smokers. Here's the link to a story about this, courtesy of The Smoking Gun (no pun intended).

I can understand making employees pick up a surcharge for the cost of their premiums if they smoke; I've worked for companies that have such a policy. But to prohibit their employees from engaging in a legal, if damaging, act?

Now, let me pose this question: how many of these companies pay benefits for homosexual couples? Even though one could argue that homosexuals run a greater risk of contracting AIDS, and thus cost the company money? Can you see anyone getting away with that? Or paying for abortions under their health plan, despite evidence of links between abortion and breast cancer - and certainly breast cancer treatment would run the insurance company a few bucks. As this reporter points out:
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to health problems. Should employers test workers for alcohol byproducts or simply follow them to see if they drive to bars or liquor stores after work? Insufficient exercise increases the risk of heart attack and other problems. Should businesses check up on employees to make sure they all exercise at least one hour three times a week? Could a corporation force all workers to stay after work to exercise if it will lower insurance costs? Some insurers charge a premium for policyholders who participate in sports such as skydiving. Should employers pre-approve the sports wage earners participate in? Sexual promiscuity can lead to many diseases. Should employers look into employees' sex lives?

I'd be amused to find out that tobacco companies had decided to fire any employee who used a product manufactured by a company that has such a policy against smokers, on the grounds that purchase of that product was indirectly detrimental to the economic well-being of the tobacco company. Could that be the start of the corporate wars we hear so much about in movies like Rollerball?

Fr. Rob, you were talking about the obligations businesses have to their employees. As a man known to enjoy a good cigar now and then, I'd value your opinion on this...

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