February 27, 2020

PURITAN NATION:

HOW SMOKING COULD MAKE YOU UNEMPLOYABLE (Billy Nauman,  FEBRUARY 27, 2020, OZY)

U-Haul, an Arizona-based moving company with about 30,000 workers, this month became one of the country's largest employers to stop hiring nicotine users -- a term that includes not just smokers but users of "nicotine products." This potentially covers people who test positive for nicotine because they are trying to give up smoking using vaping, gum or patches.

Like the Cleveland Clinic, U-Haul will allow those hired before the restriction to keep their jobs. And the hiring ban will only apply in the same 21 states.

However, should a U.S. company choose to fire any workers who use nicotine, the employees would have little recourse, depending on where they work. Smokers are not a "protected class" safeguarded by federal law, such as racial minorities or people with disabilities. That means in "at-will" employment states, a capricious boss can fire an employee for practically any reason, whether that is smoking off-duty or something as arbitrary as wearing the wrong color shirt to work. [...]

As for U-Haul, the company says its new anti-nicotine policy is part of its commitment to employee "wellness," but there are also clear financial motives at work. In the U.S., where health insurance is typically provided by employers, companies pay more for health coverage if their workforce includes a lot of smokers, says Buesing.

About one in every four companies with more than 500 employees offers nonsmokers a reduced rate on their health care premiums, says Steven Noeldner, partner at consultancy Mercer.

Yet off-duty smoking bans are only one type of potentially invasive "wellness" programs offered by companies. So-called "fitness contests" are growing increasingly common, where employees use step counters or other tracking devices to prove how active they are in exchange for a discount on their health insurance.

Who would want an employee who's rather smoke than have a job?
Posted by at February 27, 2020 12:00 AM

  

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