Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A case for the black market

The hysteria over smoking continues to escalate and as predicted, it's stinking up the private sector:

Some Canadian companies are following an American trend of refusing to hire smokers, even if they smoke in their off hours.

A group of Canadian online companies, headed by Momentus.ca, have made it clear on their websites that they only hire non-smokers. It's a policy aimed at lowering health-related costs for employers.

"It's well known that a smoker will get sick more frequently, will miss more time from work, even at work the smoker will likely be away from actual work longer than non-smokers ... and will actually cost the employer a fair amount of money," says Dr. Lew Pliamm of the Quit Clinic in Toronto.
In my experience, it is mothers with children that miss more work, but you don't hear about companies refusing to hire parents. I can see a company charging a smoker more for benefits and health insurance, but in today's nanny state that's not enough - it's more fun to force those with habits you don't share to quit or face unemployment.

Not to worry though smokers - the medical ethicists are there to support us:
Medical ethicists say smokers should not be treated like pariahs because it's an addiction.

"The fact that I may be at greater risk for cardiovascular disease or for other health problems because I'm a smoker isn't necessarily my fault and it shouldn't make me subject to discrimination," says ethicist Arthur Schafer of the University of Manitoba.
Did you ever consider that most people who smoke do so because they enjoy it? It's discrimination alright, but not for the reasons you cite Mr. Schafer. It's discrimination to judge a person's behaviour at work based on factors that do not necessarily influence their performance.

Companies like Weyco disagree:
"We offer many incentives for employees to make healthy lifestyle choices," Weyers says. "Compliance is voluntary, and the result has been a demonstrable improvement in wellness. Still, anyone concerned about limiting employers' right to specify terms of employment should know that federal law protects people with conditions like obesity, alcoholism and AIDS. But there's no right to indulge in tobacco use," he emphasizes.
If it's not bad enough that you work half the year for the benefit of the statists, companies like Weyco are joining the nannies and forcing compliance to 'healthy habits'. Worse yet, people currently employed with certain US companies might be forced to quit if they value their leisure time. What ever happened to judging an employee on the basis of his actual performance at work??!! If a person misses work and takes more breaks than he is entitled to, then they should be disciplined accordingly - but not before.
Companies in Canada are watching the American situation closely. At Weyco Medical Benefits in Michigan, workers aren't allowed to smoke at work or at home.

"We want a healthy workforce," says Howard Weyer, the company's president.

Weyco gave its employers two years' notice about its no-smoking policy and provided products and programs to help them quit. In the end, 20 workers did kick their habits and four were fired.

[..] American companies are more likely to take the hard line because they pay their employees' health insurance premiums.

Canadian companies are taking note because smokers still cost an estimated $8 billion a year in lost productivity. Smokers are absent two days more a year on average than their non-smoking counterparts and they take extended lunches and breaks, adding up to another 14 days of lost productivity.

At the moment, employers in Canada can't fire their workers for smoking but they are allowed to advertise for non-smokers only.

The Quit Clinic's Pliamm says as more employers adopt non-smoking policies, smokers may be more apt to quit their habit.

"If they know that they won't be able to progress in life, to get to where they want to be because of their smoking, this gives them one added benefit in quitting."
Thanks for caring. Here's blowing smoke into your meddling eye.

Weyco also takes an interest in the fatties it seems:
A Michigan health care company that fired four employees for smoking is also targeting fat.

Howard Weyers, the founder of Weyco Inc., said he wants to tell fat workers to lose weight or else, Reuters reported.

Weyers brought in weight experts to speak with employees, according to Reuters. The company also offers employees a $35 monthly incentive for joining a health club and $65 for meeting fitness goals.
I wonder what Weyers would have to say about the CEO for Momentous.ca Corp who admits to watching "a ton of TV to relax."

Hat tip to my brother for the CBC story.


Aaron said...

This situation requires a quote from The Dude, as stated in the great epic movie of our time: The Big Lebowski:

"This aggression will not stand, man".

MapMaster said...

OK, well I wouldn't want to take away the rights of employers to choose who and why they hire people, I hope at the same time that this craven and, especially in the case of Canadian companies, unwarranted pandering to the hysteria of the anti-smoking lobby will adversely affect their profits as good workers leave their employ. Although maybe at some point, we may see lobbying for guaranteed profits for companies willing to take this "bold" stand.

Lisa said...

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the state imposed mandatory cigarette testing across the country for private and public employees alike. We put up with things like that is this country afterall.

No doubt, soon enough, all public employees will be subject to anti-smoking propaganda sessions, courtesy of our pay cheques. So much for 'diversity.'

MapMaster said...

We're already subject to anti-smoking propaganda paid for by the taxpayers. Tons of it. Gar Mahood's Non-Smoker's Rights Association is, although open to donations, almost exclusively funded by the federal government.

Publius said...

Howard Weyers is clearly a colossal prick. I cannot stand the smell of tobacco and would probably not even have dinner with someone who smoked while eating. Yet anyone who meddles in the life of his employees as much as Weyers is a totalitarian in the making.

Meaghan Champion said...

Hello London Foggers. I'm a smoker. I've personally got no problem with companies refusing to hire people on any basis whatsoever. Free Market = Free Market. Nobody's got a right to a job. Now, if there are contracted employees and this new arrangement violates the voluntarily entered into contract when they signed on *then* that would be an issue I would be willing to back the employee on. Considering that the government forces employers to pay for the health care of it's employees this is perhaps a prudent move on the part of the businesses. I wouldnt ever do it to an employee of mine. This really is yet another case of the stupid "unitended consequences" of shitty legislation concerning health care in Canada.

Meaghan Champion said...

PS. These companies *deserve* every rotten employee that they get, that would go to work for such a company.