of no fixed subtitle
January 27, 2005
Company adopts ultimate no smoking policy:
Smoke and we'll fire you.
hmmm...this could be a problem.
17 years ago
Just so I can get this out of the way before people get too riled up. In Michigan, smoking is not protected from discrimination. But in some states it is. For them, this was legal.
So they have four smokers out of 200 employees? Here in North Carolina, you would need a sample from a nursery school to get a two percent result.
So it's not discrimination. It's still not valid grounds for firing (unless Michigan labor laws are messed up, too). These employees should have taken the test and let themselves be fired for failing them. They'd have a better case.
Isn't right-to-work awesome? You can fire people for pretty much anything unless it's for belonging to a protected class. And smokers are not a protected class.
Maybe. If it's purely an employment-at-will scenario, an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Smoking, as shawnj noted, isn't a protected activity. IANAEL. (I am not an employment lawyer.) But it makes me wonder where else companies looking to cut insurance costs will take this. Motorcycles? Skydiving? Horseback riding?
Where there's smoke, there's fireds.
Motorcycles? Skydiving? Horseback riding?
Drinking alcohol? Eating fast food? Suntanning?
I did a little research on this (I live in michigan, and ironically, stopped smoking about 7 months ago).. The guy that owns the company (and is making policy) is 71 years old... he's now gunning for people that are overweight.... perhaps he should consider going for old people as well! All in all, a bad trend... our job security should only be governed by our job performance.... But, i'm willing to bet it holds up in court..
Motorcycles? Skydiving? Horseback riding? Drinking alcohol? Eating fast food? Suntanning?
Spending too much time on the internets?
Oops. Gotta go.
Do they test for caffeine? Alcohol? Carbon monoxide? Environmental pollutants? It doesn't really matter. The company will still have to pay the health-care of its obesely overweight employees. At least until eating at McDonalds is deemed legitimate grounds for dismissal.
I don't think the company should have to pay for his 71-year-old ass to have insurance. I bet it's more expensive to cover him than a thirty-year-old smoker.
he's now gunning for people that are overweight....
Which he'll have to convince the legislature to remove obesity from protected status in order to do.
I worked for a company whose policy manual stated they would not hire smokers. It was never enforced, though.
Capt. Renault wins
I can be fired from my job any time for
my superiors deem worthy. And I feel this is the way it should be.
I also say this knowing that I will, without a doubt, be fired in the next 12-18 months, max. Possibly in as short as two weeks.
I hate this stuff. I refused to sign my old job's drug & alcohol policy because it said that if I ever got drunk and did anything that might embarrass the museum, then I could be fired, even if it was on my own time.* I feel that if, on the weekend, I want to get raving drunk and stoned AND nekkid, then ride a horse through downtown, I should be able to do that (or any combination thereof, or whatever) and keep my job. If I do it on their time, fine, fire me. My time is my time, and it should not concern my employer. This "you are constantly being watched, you are always at work" crap is erasing the line between slavery and employment. IMHO, and all. *
anyway, hee hee, the policy was a rush job created solely because of one curator's wild drunken antics after a big gala party
you are always at work
That's fine with me, as long as they include a "You are always being paid" clause.
So, Fes, could they fire you for dating a black woman and you would feel it's fair and just? Or for listening to Gloria Estefan at home? Or for wearing your hat at a jaunty angle? I know, I know: I see the point you're trying to make, but the question here is what is/isn't a "protected activity". Full disclosure: I used to be a manager and every employee signed off on a document that basically stated the company (ie, me) could terminate employment for any reason the company sees fit. However--and this is a big however--employees and prospective employees were protected from certain biases on the part of the employer (race, religion, the usual stuff, etc). As for this Smoke And You're Fired policy, it does aggravate me a little (since I'm an semi-ex-smoker), but I can't really disagree with it. They have the right, I suppose. They probably would have been better off phasing it in with new employees, though.
On preview: That's too bad, Fes. Hope it leads to better things for you.
I was fired for "no reason" last year. There was, of course, a reason*; but they didn't tell me what it was. They just said "We are exercising our right under the terms of your employment contract to terminate your employment". That was it. I had no recourse.
* I was secretly organizing the workers into a semi-revolutionary demand for change. Someone ratted me out
Where there's smoke, there's fireds.
Capt. Renault, I'm stealing that from you for a blog post title.
So, Fes, could they fire you for dating a black woman and you would feel it's fair and just? Or for listening to Gloria Estefan at home? Or for wearing your hat at a jaunty angle?
Of course I wouldn't feel that it's fair or just. However, the other side of that coin is, if I excel at my work and the reason really is one of those you mentioned, isn't the company really only hurting itself? I, assuming I am a skilled, talented worker, will undoubtedly be acquired by a company who does not feel those things you mentioned are firing offenses, while the company that fired me has stupidly cut itself off from my service. The Rocket's example is similar: assuming he excels at his job (I don't know what he does, but assuming he exhibits the same levels of intelligence and perspicacity at his occupation that he does here, there is no reason to assume otherwise), the company he worked for injured itself by divesting itself of his services, and the manager who fired him exhibited incompetence by doing so. I know these sorts of things don't exist in a market vacuum. And yet, as someone who both has bosses and is a boss, how can I say that my superiors cannot fire me when I myself want to reserve the privilege to fire any of my subordinates when the situation demands it? And thanks. It is too bad. But our little company is being bought by a megacorp and in time my entire department will become superfluous. But it is their prerogative to do so. Luckily, I think I will be in a position to make that transition easier for my people, and the lead time will allow me to prepare for my own departure (resumes, networking, headhunters, etc). It is my hope that another company will value my services better than this one has.
The fact that rocket88 had to secretly organize revolutionary change attests to the incompetence of his managers. I think he will be better of in the long term for having been freed from this place.
Those exceptions Name That Itch listed are all federally protected groups under the Civil Rights Act. No other groups, including homosexuals or bisexuals, are covered. So technically no, there's no explicit legal protection. It is, however, unfair to make my job status contingent on what I do in my spare time, provided that what I do in my spare time does not conflict with my ability to do my job or violate any major laws. It may very well be legal, but it doesn't at all strike me as ethical. And, as I noted above, it is hugely hypocritical for a man who is certainly among the most expensive to insure to discriminate against those who bump his company's healthcare costs a little. He certainly doesn't mind his company shelling out the extra bucks to cover him. On preview:
the privilege to fire any of my subordinates when the situation demands it?
The key phrase there is "when the situation demands it." Capricious firing doesn't fall under that category, I think. I agree with the principle of at-will employment, but I also believe in ethical firing practices. What he's doing may be perfectly legal, but it's invasive and dependent upon lifestyles that are arguably none of his business. I have every confidence that you'll land on your feet shortly, even in the current up-and-down job market. No one with your impeccable fashion sense can go unemployed for long.
It's taken me years but now that I've quit I can finally be self-righteous like a non-smoker. You smokers are all losers. And you smell like ashtrays. And you should all be fired because, you know, you suck and everything. Wow! I can't believe all the fun I've missed.
It may very well be legal, but it doesn't at all strike me as ethical.
That's it, right there.
It could be worse.
Jesus. That's absolutely outrageous. I'd rather have someone respect my privacy and personal rights, not someone who "strongly supports" me to live a healthy lifestyle.
When the war on drugs was ramping up, tobacco smokers were among the loudest proponents of testing for all. /irony
Man, fes. You would have fit right into corporate culture of the
Nostril would be so all over this...and where is tracicle?
It's probably not legal. A company cannot fire you for what you do in your free time, regardless of whether you're part of a protected group. Unless, of course, it's an employment-at-will situation, but in most places that only lasts through the probation period. If it's permanant, it's a pretty shitty place to work anyway.
Hey, Koko, what about using cannabis in your free time? Isn't that what drug testing is all about?
Well, except drugs.
This thread is, on one level, kind of funny. Especially watching people who are elsewhere property rights advocates complain that the guy shouldn't be able to run his compant however he pleases, or the smokers complaining that thet have a right to smoke but that he doesn't have a right to decide who he gives money to. That said, I'm in complete disagreement with Fes on this. An employer has the right to demand I show up for the proper hours, do the work I'm paid for, and dress and behave according to some reasonable standards of behaviour (no punching workmates or finger-fucking the receptionist on the front desk). An employer ought to be able to fire me for incompetence, theft, fraud, and the like. But other than that, it's none of their business what I do in the hours they don't pay me.
"no... finger-fucking the receptionist on the front desk"
See, that's where you and I disagree...
But, yeah, this makes exactly as much sense as mandatory drug-testing -- which is to say, none at all. I'm actually glad to see this happening, as it highlights the absurdity of it all. /rarely even smokes pot //is a contractor, so is never tested anyhow
But other than that, it's none of their business what I do in the hours they don't pay me.
I think we are more in agreement than might initially be evident. I too believe that what I may or may not do outside of the office - so long as it does not affect my work - is my own business and outside the company's purview. I would add to that a clarification of what I was saying earlier: that competennt management should *preclude* having to make this an issue. A perceptive, knowledgeable boss knows his people, their strengths and weaknesses, and manages to those. What I'm saying is, what one of my people does outside of work should
never become an issue for me,
because (a) anything that isn't salient to their work is none of my business, (b) I will have already addressed or be in the process of addressing outside work behaviors that are affecting performance in the office and (c) one of my most imporant jobs as a manager is to protect my people from the predations of
bosses. If someone's outside of work behavior becomes an issue at work, it's at least partially my fault. Anyway: it seems to me that one can make the case that these people's outside of work behaviors (smoking) IS affecting not only their own work but that of all their colleagues, by contributing to high insurance rates. Because their smoking affects the company's ability to afford and, ultimately, have health insurance, the line that separates private behavior and collective consequence is thus crossed. I don't blame the smokers here, although they are the ones, of course, who will pay the price. This is an issue with our health care system, something which I can honestly and without shame say I have no friggin clue how to fix. It's true, shawnj, I was born a century too late, I'm a neo-Vicky at heart. *tips topper*
OK, coming from SD, which is a 'right to work' state, you can get fired. Period. NO reason is needed, let alone any reason. Next up: My insurance is higher because I smoke (which is dumb, because in the long run, smokers are cheaper because they die younger. Anyway). Next up: I recently got whole life insurance... part of it was testing for.... smoking. Even though I said I did, they still tested. Next up: I once had a job where as part of the employment agreement you had to sign a form saying you did not smoke. They had ash trays around the building. Employees smoker. Business, in general, are not logical, esp when it comes to HR and marketing. So.... I'm not surprised. It doesn't matter. If you wish to be a slave to your employment, then you are. If you don't like, well, get fired or find another job. You are free, in the context that you can work for whom ever you please. If the person who gives you money wants to put a condition on it, well... then they do. Some conditions are not allowed, but by default, most are.
Capt. Renault wins
A perceptive, knowledgeable boss
What the hell is that?? Fes, can I come work for you? Anyway, can't they just charge the smokers higher premiums for their health insurance? Isn't that what most places do anyway?
Wow, a story from my back yard. Literally. I could walk from my house to this company. I probably drive by it a couple times a week going to get groceries. I do understand the difficulty in making this decision, both in terms of publicity and in terms of good will towards the company from employees and potential customers, but I really don't see this as a bad move. The company deals in health benefits - who better to know the long-term costs of smoking? If cutting smokers from the payroll allows them to better manage the health benefits for their employees, I say do it. I'm not saying that smokers don't deserve health benefits, but it really isn't fair that other employees have to subsidize them by paying higher premiums. There's only so much mone in the communal pot, and smokers use more of it than non-smokers. Yes, killThisKid, smokers don't live as long - but the shorter life is coupled with massive health costs due to emphysema, cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. Both of my paternal grandparents and one great aunt died much younger than they should have, primarily due to long-term health problems stemming from lifelong smoking. and MCT:
"It is, however, unfair to make my job status contingent on what I do in my spare time"
Sure, makes sense. Valid point. But we as a society (and I mean this as the US in general, can't speak first-hand 'bout the rest of the world) tend to not think this way except when the matter directly affects us. I mean, Clinton wasn't writing legislation or giving a speech when he got a hummer from his intern (both consenting adults). Teachers who pick up prostitutes (even if done legally, say in Nevada) aren't likely to continue their jobs. Workers who participate in protests or demonstrations when not on the job often feel repercussions. This sort of thing happens all the time - people get fired because of non-work activity - but this time there's (a) a pretty valid reason for the firing, and (b) the reason is directly related to the job duties of the employees. If it is activity that reflects poorly on the integrity of the company, it can affect a customer's decision to hire them. I mean, I wouldn't take my taxes to a company that had employees under investigation for their own tax returns... Anyway, Michigan has a history of treating smokers like second-class citizens. Half the revenue for road repair and education is coming from taxes on cigarettes and beer (not wine and cigars, of course; we only tax the poor and middle classes!). Our chunk of the massive tobacco lawsuit settlement was supposed to go into the general health fund both for prevention and to offset the cost of caring for ailing smokers. Unfortunately, the state seemed to see this as free money for a whole lot of other things. Health care is still flat out of cash, and the roads still need to be fixed - the difference between the two is that health care doesn't bring in out-of-state tourists with fat wallets. Being able to drive on a three-lane highway into the green forests of northern Michigan, now that brings in some cash. I keep thinking that if everyone in the state stopped smoking tomorrow, the budget would be screwed... but that's what you get for funding so much based on the bad habits of a few. In the meantime, companies like this one are just doing anything they can to help plug some of the holes in health management before the coffers bleed completely dry.
What the hell is that??
Something that I aspire to be. A good master for my samurai, and a good samurai to my master in return.
Fes, can I come work for you?
I'm sorry, Koko, but even as we type, my superiors are preparing the eventual dismantling of my department. *grim smile*
Anyway, can't they just charge the smokers higher premiums for their health insurance?
Not that simple. The whole idea behind having the company pay for it instead of the individual is to take advantage of group actuarials - the larger the group, the more the high costs of certain unhealthy individuals can be parsed amongst the healthier individuals, and thus keep costs (ostensibly) down. However, as medical costs (and, consequently, insurance costs) have risen, those costs by necessity get passed to the company (a word of note: health insurance companies are, contrary to popular thought, almost to a man loss or break-even centers, rather than profit centers, for larger insurance companies), who of course balks, especially when their bills have been rising by 15-30% per annum for the last few years. That's a bite to the company, and it forces them (in the event they want to keep insurance at all, which a lot of them have opted NOT to do, to many's chagrin) to seek out ways to reduce the impact of those increases - higher deductibles and copays, decreased special services (bye bye dental and optical) and, in this case, the elimination of smokers from the plan to help skew their actuarials (and subsequently their costs) back toward something they can comfortably pay. I have little doubt that this maneuever is based not on the boss' distaste for smokers as it is on his insurance company's new bill.
Hey, more people from Michigan! Y'know what? We have unions in Michigan for this reason. Workers have rights, and this is exactly the type of thing that collective bargaining is for-to defend those rights. I have a right to privacy that supercedes the business's right to determing how their capital is used. Just like I can't be fired for going to a demonstration, say, against the president unless it directly interferes with my ability to do my job. Why? Because I have a right to free speech. I realize that theoretically, rights only apply to limit the power of the government. But since the business of government is business, I don't feel at all out of place asserting that my rights apply in greater society too. If you don't like things like this, fucking organize. And rocket: it's against federal labor laws to be fire someone for organizing.
and yet, it is not inconceivable that the vigorous exercise of worker's demands through collective bargaining trumping business' ability to use capital can have detrimental, even in some cases mortal, effects on the business? "To preserve our rights as workers, we had to destroy the business"? Without workers, there is no business - but without business, there are similarly no workers.
which is not to say that there is no place for unions or workers' rights - management has proven time and again its capacity for abuse. My thought is that each side needs to exercise a bit more intelligence and a bit less willingness to exert power over the other simply because they can exert it.
Well, yeah. That, and any union job is also rife with stories of unions acting in the best interest of unions, not in the best interest of workers.