Forbidden To Smoke At All Costs

Feb 10 20:05 2005 Candas Emcioglu Print This Article

Employees at Weyco Inc., a medical company in Michigan, are required to undergo a tobacco test designed to monitor their tobacco usage. The company’s new no-smoking rule has banned its employees from smoking both at home and at work. The controversial policy dictates that failing to take the tobacco test will result in termination of employment, and four employees, who refused to take the test, have already been fired.

Although Weyco’s CEO has responded to the critics that the sole purpose of the policy is to create a smoke-free and healthy work environment,Guest Posting many believe that the policy was drafted as an obvious excuse to cut down Weyco’s medical and insurance costs. Critics argue that this policy is a discrimination against lifestyle choices, and an invasion of privacy, as it allows the company to have a say in what its employees do outside work. Many are understandably worried that this policy will serve as a launching platform for many other potentially discriminating policies in the future.

Following the logic of this policy, if the sole purpose is to create a “healthy” work environment, as it has been justified, companies should be allowed to force their obese employees to lose weight. After all, excessive eating and obesity are health risks as serious as those caused by tobacco usage. Perhaps some companies would even be arrogant and pervasive enough to provide an arbitrary list of what “can” and “cannot” be eaten with another list in fineprint of “what” can be eaten “where” at “what time” of the day.

Imagine a business dinner, where people are not allowed to order a bottle of wine as a result of a zero-tolerance-to-alcohol company policy, or an alcohol and cigarette free christmas party. Perhaps, some foresighted companies will take the next step and demand job applicants to undergo genetic tests to see if they may have any genetic dispositions to any diseases that may eventually cost the company medical expenses. The logic is so flexible that, along side the parking ticket that we get for parking next to a water hydrant, we may even find ourselves getting “dress-code tickets” from our companies. Technically speaking, failing to wear a scarf and a warm head cover on a cold winter day, could be perceived by the company CEO as a highly irresponsible act and a cause of company resources wasted on employee sick days. As farfetched as some of these examples may sound, there is no reason why they could not be adopted by companies in the future, if discriminating policies like that of Weyco are tolerated today.

What is being criticized is not the desire to have a healthy work environment, but Weyco’s exploitation of the word “healthy”. If companies are that concerned about providing a healthy environment to their employees, then, they should show the same sensitivity that they have for tobacco usage to other health related factors such as office ergonomics, food quality at company cafeterias, or alcohol consumption. The controversy is about how much the companies should be allowed to interfere in our private lives outside the work environment. Should they be allowed to dictate the terms of our lifestyles? Should they be allowed to terminate our employment, if we refuse to comply with these obligations, as Weyco has done with those who have refused to take the tobacco test? Should the movie “Gattaca” be considered as a precursor to the future?

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Candas Emcioglu
Candas Emcioglu

Candas Emcioglu
Istanbul, TURKEY

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