View Full Version : Quit smoking or quit your job, company says

01-27-2005, 06:54 AM
Overweight workers could be next

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- The owner of a Michigan company who forced his employees to either quit smoking or quit their jobs said on Wednesday he also wants to tell fat workers to lose weight or else.

A ban on tobacco use -- whether at home or at the workplace -- led four employees to quit their jobs last week at Okemos, Michigan-based Weyco Inc., which handles insurance claims.

The workers refused to take a mandatory urine test demanded of Weyco's 200 employees by founder and sole owner Howard Weyers, a demand that he said was perfectly legal.

"If you don't want to take the test, you can leave," Weyers told Reuters. "I'm not controlling their lives; they have a choice whether they want to work here."

Next on the firing line: overweight workers.

"We have to work on eating habits and getting people to exercise. But if you're obese, you're (legally) protected," Weyers said.

He has brought in an eating disorder therapist to speak to workers, provided eating coaches, created a point system for employees to earn health-related $100 bonuses and plans to offer $45 vouchers for health club memberships.

The 71-year-old Weyers, who said he has never smoked and pronounced himself in good shape thanks to daily runs, said employees' health as well as saving money on the company's own insurance claims led him to first bar smokers from being hired in 2003.

Last year, he banned smoking during office hours, then demanded smokers pay a monthly $50 "assessment," and finally instituted mandatory testing.

Twenty workers quit the habit.

Weyers tells clients to quit whining about health care costs and to "set some expectations; demand some things."

Job placement specialist John Challenger said Weyco's moves could set a precedent for larger companies -- if it survives potential legal challenges.

"Certainly it raises an interesting boundary issue: rising health care costs and society's aversion to smoking versus privacy and freedom rights of an individual," Challenger said.

So far no legal challenges have been made to Weyco's policies.

01-27-2005, 07:58 AM
Oh boy... I wonder if the owner demands that his workers call him Master? I also wonder if he chains his workers to their desks?

I don't smoke. However, I think this is wrong. To give that sort of ultimatum is wrong IMO. It is not like telling workers that they can no longer wear red shirts. Smoking goes much deeper than that to those who do it. And I would venture to guess that this has something to do with saving the owner money. Sounds awful selfish to me... even if it might be the best thing for the smokers at this place (the 20 who quit smoking b/c of it).

Smoking and obesity are not good for anyone's health. But it is not 71-year-old owner's place to make people change their lives. No way, shape or form. I have a feeling that there will be a lawsuit (or two or three) against this owner. And I hope he loses.

Roy Tucker
01-27-2005, 08:10 AM
At the company that I work for, we have a health web portal that is set up to help the employee lead a healthy life.

This year, there were two health insurance rates. The lower one was if you signed up on the web site. The higher one was if you didn't.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out where this is going.

01-27-2005, 08:18 AM
He may save money on health insurance but eventually he's going to pay out the wazoo on lawsuits and attorney fees.

Chip R
01-27-2005, 09:24 AM
I don't think he would be out of line if he asked any obese employees or smokers to get counseling so they can attempt to lose weight or attempt to quit smoking. If the employees didn't even try to comply then I think he'd be well within his rights to let them go but I would think most employees would at least attempt to try to lead a healthier lifestyle and I think that's all you could ask of them. On the other hand, I'm not sure I like people regulating behavior whether it's the government or a company. If I do my job and follow company rules, what right do they have to tell me how I should lead my life as long as I'm not breaking any laws?

Johnny Footstool
01-27-2005, 09:32 AM
It would be interesting to see what happens if some of those high-powered R.J. Reynolds attorneys start filing lawsuits.

Banning smoking in the workplace = fine.

Banning smoking outside the workplace = not.

01-27-2005, 09:41 AM
I know that this is not new. I have heard of other companies where being a non-smoker is a condition of employment. I just can't find any reference to it online.

01-27-2005, 10:15 AM
If an employer can dictate one's right to smoke (I hate smoking) can employers also dictate fitness levels and diet? How about dental hygeine? How about vision correction? How about requiring a family medical history? I hope this fails.

01-27-2005, 10:18 AM
I really don't see how it's fair for the employer to tell people they can't smoke on their own time. It's a legal activity.

I mean, he's already said he's going after overweight people next..

Then what? Is he going to set a 9 pm curfew? Mandatory unpaid runs at 6 am?
Make sure they don't watch certain TV/movies that might corrupt their morals?

Sorry, but this seems WAY out of line to me.

01-27-2005, 10:27 AM
The 71-year-old Weyers, who said he has never smoked and pronounced himself in good shape
Am I the only one that thinks this guy is tempting fate?

Kind of like when a hoops announcer says 'this player has made his last 30 free throw attempts' and you just KNOW the guy is going to clank the next one.

Weyers just shot to the top of my 'Dead Pool'.