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Fired for smoking
January 25, 2005 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Four employees fired for refusing smoking test. This month, Weyco Inc., a Michigan based company in the health care industry, has gone forward with its plan to fire any employees that smokes cigarettes, even if it's done in their own homes. This is being done primarily to save money on health care. Weyco defends its position.
posted by bobo123 (147 comments total)

 
"Michigan based company in the health care industry" Oh oh. Here comes Michael Moore. Maybe the company execs should be tested for ethics.
posted by Ranger03 at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2005


"That is absolutely a victory," Climes said.

Replace "victory" with disgrace and you have it.
posted by squealy at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2005


Ach, prohibition didn't work with alcohol, it isn't working with marijuana, and it sure as hell isn't going to work with something as entrenched in our culture as cigarettes. And prohibition is where measures like this are aiming at.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2005


West Marine has done this for a few years now. I've no problem with it in the least. If they could keep their developing cancers in their own homes and not have their sickness affect their work then I wouldn't have a problem with them smoking.

People who smoke are willingly risking their health, I don't see why a business should have to risk their bottom line by hiring people who will be sick more often than someone who doesn't smoke.
posted by fenriq at 4:45 PM on January 25, 2005


I don't agree with this, but I don't see how, legally speaking, it's any different from terminating an employee who fails a drug test (assuming that extracurricular use doesn't directly affect job performance). I don't agree with that, either.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2005


What about that slut Debbie in accounting? Are we firing people for spreading the clap, too?
posted by ColdChef at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2005


People who smoke are willingly risking their health, I don't see why a business should have to risk their bottom line by hiring people who will be sick more often than someone who doesn't smoke

People who don't exercise are willingly risking their health, I don't see why a business should have to risk their bottom line by hiring people who will be sick more often than someone who doesn't exercise.

Or replace that with eat sugar, or are over weight or x, y, or z. Pretty bad argument IMHO.
posted by Bort at 4:49 PM on January 25, 2005


"Michigan based company in the health care industry" Oh oh. Here comes Michael Moore.

Doubt it. Moore picks his battles, and he did a piece on Big Tobacco in the first season of The Awful Truth that seemed to have a bit of an anti-smoking note to it, if memory serves.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2005


ACLU outrage in 5...4...3...2...
posted by killy willy at 4:51 PM on January 25, 2005


fenriq - so it should be okay to fire people for playing sports, riding a motorcycle, or flipping off a hell's angel?

all of those things introduce danger that isn't present with people that don't participate, just like smoking.

i'm sick of the growing resurgence in the idea that companies' bottom lines are more important than their employees' freedom to live their life as they choose.

didn't we decide that companies having complete control over their employees' lives was Barbaric and Wrong a while ago? like when we got 40 hour work weeks?
posted by flaterik at 4:53 PM on January 25, 2005


You know, in my experience people who have kids are more likely to be off sick than those who don't. Those pesky kids pick up so many bugs at school and then pass them on to their parents. This is the bit where I should start paraphrasing that German priest during WW2 - first they came for the smokers etc etc.
posted by squealy at 4:54 PM on January 25, 2005


I don't see why a business should have to risk their bottom line by hiring people who will be sick more often than someone who doesn't smoke.

Yeah, I don't see why businesses should have to sacrifice their bottom line because all the breeders in their office keep doing God's Good Work. NO KIDS, or NO JOB. Your choice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:01 PM on January 25, 2005


Part of the reason they can and will do this is because health insurance companies will give them a better deal on their benefits. Part of it is to help foster a healthier workplace which means happier employees which means a stronger bottom line.

What is outrageous to me is that Big Tobacco is allowed to continue to operate and kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.

flaterik, if the company decides that the risk is greater than the possible reward then yes, they can tell their employees to stop riding motorcycles. And the employees can go work somewhere else.

This isn't about complete control, this is about offsetting risk in as straightforward a way as possible. You're free to not do business with them, just as I'm free to not do business with a company that adds a Christian proverb to the end of their corporate emails.
posted by fenriq at 5:01 PM on January 25, 2005


like when we got 40 hour work weeks?

You mean there's such a thing?

Are smokers actually sick more often than non-smokers? I've never heard of people calling in sick because they smoked too much the night before; if anything, this is about cancer insurance, or something.

On the other hand, if they applied this to food, a lot of people I work with would be very out of a job because they've basically given themselves diabetes by drinking soda all day long.
posted by interrobang at 5:02 PM on January 25, 2005


Nice straw man you made there, C_D.
posted by fenriq at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2005


Wouldn't the easy solution be national healthcare? Then this company wouldn't be worried about getting a better insurance deal or not.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:05 PM on January 25, 2005


What will the libertarian free-marketeers say about this, considering it's the company's choice?
posted by abcde at 5:05 PM on January 25, 2005


It's fine, consider that to any company an employee is basically a dead weight anytime he/she is not bringing some money somehow ..so given that smoking increases the possibility one suddendly becomes not productive or *gasp* a cost for company, it's better to hire non smokers when avaiable.

Eventually, a line must be drawn and a decision has to be made : is worker becoming a deadweight for the company..expecially the smoking one ? Maybe it would be wise to also screen them for genetic defects , flue , sexual deviancy or anything that would decrease their potential value or become a liability.

It must also be noted that management is no longer in the same class as "worker" given that stockholders meeting are usually held by..uh..a bunch of managers ! Wolf don't bite wolf..so who's going to downsize the smoking management today and the genetically inferior ...ooopps I meant diversely genetically able management tomorrow ?

/rant
posted by elpapacito at 5:09 PM on January 25, 2005


I missed more time from work after I stopped smoking than I ever missed while I smoked. Of course, that's anecdotal and doesn't count for anything, but there you have it anyway.

On the other hand, I enjoyed my time off a lot more when I didn't smoke, so maybe that's to the better.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:24 PM on January 25, 2005


Smart, since smokers are the only people who ever get sick or die.
posted by obloquy at 5:25 PM on January 25, 2005


fenriq: Nice straw man you made there, C_D.

How was that a straw man? If people with kids hurt the bottom line more than people without kids, then by your logic, not hiring people with children is just fine. Hell, maternity leave is pretty expensive, probably shouldn't hire women either.

What is outrageous to me is that Big Tobacco is allowed to continue to operate and kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.

I smoked for 10 years and I don't remember ever being forced by Big Tobacco to do it. Why should anyone have a right to keep me from hurting myself? I'll hurt myself any way I please, thank you very much. :) (On a personal note, I've been an ex-smoker for 2 months now and still going strong. woo-hoo! )
posted by Bort at 5:26 PM on January 25, 2005


Wouldn't the easy solution be national healthcare? Then this company wouldn't be worried about getting a better insurance deal or not.
Big corporations are already starting to make noises about this--they know it would be cheaper. I'll dig up some links later.
posted by amberglow at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2005


If three 747s crashed today--one in New York, one in L.A., another in Miami--all such planes would be grounded until the cause was discovered. If three crashed every day, year in, year out, there would be outrage, and most people would stop flying. The people who did choose to fly wouldn't get insurance, and would have difficulty finding a job. That's how many people die from smoking. More than a thousand per day, just in the U.S.A.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:29 PM on January 25, 2005


Weyco is in business to help other companies save money and improve employee health through innovative benefit plans.

Save money on health care costs. Fire your smokers. How innovative. I'm sure my health would improve greatly by being fired.
posted by effwerd at 5:29 PM on January 25, 2005


On the flip side, the smokers would die sooner and be less of a draw on the pension plan, yes? Those marathon-running vegans are the ones to watch out for--living well past the Social Security collection commencement age and sucking everybody dry.
posted by LionIndex at 5:32 PM on January 25, 2005


'That's how many people die from smoking. More than a thousand per day, just in the U.S.A.'

Thank Jeebus they didn't live to be a drain on Social Security, huh?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:33 PM on January 25, 2005


What is outrageous to me is that Big Tobacco is allowed to continue to operate and kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.

Nobody is forcing smoke down these people's lungs. With the (strict, IMO) advertising controls in place to protect children from deliberate targeting, there is no problem with cigarette companies today as far as I can see.


I don't see how, legally speaking, it's any different from terminating an employee who fails a drug test (assuming that extracurricular use doesn't directly affect job performance).


Well, legally speaking, illegal drugs are illegal. So firing someone for something allowed by the law is just a tad different. Not that I agree with firing people for illegal drugs (when it doesn't affect their performance) either.

As mentioned above, these people had better start firing all the fat people quick, because pound for pound (excuse the terrible pun) they will soon be an even higher health risk and will affect that company's bottom line.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2005


and--a bonus: Weyco gets put out of business if we have national health. ; >

If you add up the costs of smokers to health plans versus the costs of the obese, the alcoholic, the drug-abusing, the fertility-treatment-seeking, the stricken with cancer, etc, i bet you'd find far more cost savings by firing those people. It'd still be wrong tho. It's easy to pick on smokers, but firing them should be illegal if they perform their jobs. I hope these folks go right to court and take Weyco to the cleaners.
posted by amberglow at 5:35 PM on January 25, 2005


In what futuristic movie is cholesterol outlawed, and those who eat foods less than perfectly healthy are treated like part of a second class?
posted by odinsdream at 5:36 PM on January 25, 2005


Still, anyone concerned about limiting employers' right to specify terms of employment should know that federal law protects people with conditions such as obesity, alcoholism and AIDS. But there's no right to indulge in tobacco use.

In other words, since smokers aren't protected, fuck 'em. I think I'll become a fat lush.
posted by effwerd at 5:44 PM on January 25, 2005


Fire up the new company propaganda compete with hundreds of smiling young kids doing aerobics and waiving the company flag, "ve vill rule the world!!!!" and broadcast it continuously. Make them wear scarf's that are colour coded: red for the youngin's, grey for middle management and royal purple for the top elite executive. (think propaganda machines from any number of dictatorships and you'll get a good idea on the imagery in my head).

Better add alcohol to the list of prohibited substances. Damn slippery slopes ...
posted by squeak at 5:45 PM on January 25, 2005


You know, in my experience people who have kids are more likely to be off sick than those who don't. Those pesky kids pick up so many bugs at school and then pass them on to their parents.

Yes, and the childless people are the ones who get forced to stay late and make up the parents' missed work. I'm a childless non-smoker. Should I be expected to cover both for Susan whose kid is sick and Earl who's out getting a lung removed?

This is a heartwarming story for everyone who pays for insurance and who can be bothered to take care of themselves.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:47 PM on January 25, 2005


From the company's defense:

Despite facts like these, we also get asked: "What will companies ban next - unhealthy eating, drinking, and sexual behavior?"

No. We offer many incentives for employees to make healthy lifestyle choices. Compliance is voluntary, and the result has been a demonstrable improvement in wellness.


I don't see the distinction being made here. Obviously, compliance is not voluntary when it comes to smoking. Why is it different from these other practices? And since when is the function of a company to "improve the wellness" of its employees?

On a side note, did anybody else find this incredibly creepy?

We also provide employees with a $35 monthly incentive to use a fitness facility; another $65 for meeting modest fitness goals.
posted by designbot at 5:53 PM on January 25, 2005


On a side note, did anybody else find this incredibly creepy?

Weyco - we pay more for sexy people!
posted by chundo at 6:07 PM on January 25, 2005


The idea that a company's bottom line (ot the perceived threats to it) is more important in a society than a person's right to do anything legal they want in their free time is so authoritarian that one seriously expects the person that advocates it to wear armands with funny symbols on them.

I mean listen to the fascist speak, you can almost read the regret in his voice as he says:

"Still, anyone concerned about limiting employers' right to specify terms of employment should know that federal law protects people with conditions such as obesity, alcoholism and AIDS."

"But there's no right to indulge in tobacco use." he adds. Because in his Nazi mindset he assumes that anything not explicitly allowed is verboten - and not the other way around as the corrupt minions of "democracy" would have it.

And since when can you fire somebody based on the statistical behaviour of the group he/she belongs to? "Smokers" might be more likely to take sick leave - but did these smokers, take sick leaves more often? If young african-american males are more likely to commit a crime can one fire any young african-american pre-emptively?

And as designbot said: these disturbed people are paying people to meet their "modest fitness standards". If their smoking fixation is any guide - this is something that Seymour Hersh should quickly investigate.
posted by talos at 6:10 PM on January 25, 2005


I believe talos has it spot on, here. It isn't illegal to do, and unless your work suffers directly as a result, i.e., "Bill, we're going to have to let you go because your glaucoma is interfering with your job as a stunt pilot." ... you just can't fire someone like this legally.

I don't think it's a slippery slope fallacy at all to argue that the company should also fire fat employees, those who don't do cardiovascular exercise every day, and those who eat unhealthy foods.
posted by odinsdream at 6:21 PM on January 25, 2005


* which they obviously shouldn't do. At least, I thought it was obvious.
posted by odinsdream at 6:22 PM on January 25, 2005


Smart... people will swallow this because it's Big Evil Tobacco, and it'll form a nice precedent for companies to discriminate on any grounds they choose.

For once, I hope someone sues them right into the ground.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:37 PM on January 25, 2005


Liberals have a civil rights blind spot with tabacco,

This is such fundemental stuff people, don't get it wrong because you don't like the smell of smoke.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 6:48 PM on January 25, 2005


I defended this when it was on Fark, and I'll defend it here.
I don't agree with the choice the company made, there are many different ways to get employees to change their behaviour, termination is the least effective.
However, I firmly believe that any company has the right to hire or fire anyone they wish, for any reason whatsoever.
Yes, I am aware the law currently protects certain groups of individuals from discrimination. Yes, I am saying I disagree with that.
Discrimination is almost always wrong, almost always despicable, and I refuse to deal with people who are prejudiced against the aforementioned groups.
However, I stand by their right to have those beliefs, wrong as I may perceive them, and to employ or fire anyone they see fit. It's their business, not mine, and most certainly not the government's.
posted by nightchrome at 6:54 PM on January 25, 2005


Yes, it will die in the courts. But how stupid is this? That's like firing Einstein for being unkempt. Just Stupid.

While they're at it, why not just eliminate everyone who is; not caucasian, looks funny, wears glasses, has bad fashion sense, fails to check in with metafilter on occasion.

Bah, my dogs pees on it.
posted by snsranch at 6:56 PM on January 25, 2005


"Michigan based company in the health care industry" Oh oh. Here comes Michael Moore.

Doubt it. Moore picks his battles, and he did a piece on Big Tobacco in the first season of The Awful Truth that seemed to have a bit of an anti-smoking note to it, if memory serves.


No, really.
posted by boymilo at 7:00 PM on January 25, 2005


A related but different situation occurred to me, so I thought I'd throw it out there. My company increased our health care costs significantly this year (I know, what company hasn't?), but started offering a "discount" for non-smokers - meaning, of course, that smokers are charged more. Suppose next year they offer more "discounts" for things like being a non-drinker or not being obese. Suppose they add 2 dozen different differentiators that affect the cost of health insurance. A few more years, and they refuse to offer insurance at all to people who are, for example, obese, smoking, alcoholics (or price it out of being and option). At what point on this continuum should the law step in and say "No, you can't do that." I'm not sure where I stand on that. Thoughts?

nightchrome: While I disagree with your view, I understand and respect it, and see it as being consistent. The view of "no you can't discriminate based on x, but I don't like y, so discriminate away" is the view I can't stand.
posted by Bort at 7:00 PM on January 25, 2005


This is harsh. But in the end, saves lives. As a medical doctor, I can't tell you how people JUST DON'T GET how horrible smoking is for you. Young people think they are immortal and the old think they know everything. "Who cares if I die a little early. Every one has to go sometime" But they don't see what I see. They don't see the people with no throats from cancer. They don't see the millions of people who spend the last 10 years of their shortened lives gasping desperately for air with emphysema and lugging around oxygen tanks 24 hours a day. If a company fires someone for using drugs it's ok, but smoking is no less destructive on the human body and wallet. I applaud the CEO for having the balls to do what he did!!
posted by zwemer at 7:08 PM on January 25, 2005


If there's any Mac fans in the audience, you might be interested to know that SmallDog here in Vermont won't hire smokers in the first place. However, if they find out you're a smoker, you have a choice to either try to quit smoking with their help, or leave your job.
We combine our policy of not hiring smokers with a strong incentive program for smoking cessation. We offer a cash bonus as well as assistance in getting counseling, patches, and other smoking-cessation aids if an employee is discovered to be a smoker.
I feel like the problem lies way more in the insane costs of health care -- ours at the public library has gone up double digits twice in two years, that's tax dollars, and I'm sure it's the same for cops and firemen -- driving people to behave badly than in a higher incidence of, say, smoking related illnesses or sick-days than perhaps drinking related ones. I'd like to see some real numbers rather than just assumptions over who is more likely to drain the health care coffers.
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 PM on January 25, 2005


Bort: I can't stand that either. The very idea of "exceptions" where these sorts of rights are concerned ticks me off.
In this sort of discussion, people always focus on "the rights of smokers" or the "rights of employees".
Nobody is infringing on the rights of smokers, they can continue to smoke. They just won't be employed at that business.
Nobody is infringing on the right of employees, they choose to work where they are and maintain the habits and behaviours they do.
People seem to have this bizarre belief that everyone has some sort of God-given right to be employed and remain employed where they are, and that the law should be brought to bear down on anything that threatens that.

This is not a case of a company trying to control what their employees do in their free time. People keep saying it is, but it isn't. The company is not trying to control what their employees do in their free time.
They are trying to control the kind of people they employ.
posted by nightchrome at 7:12 PM on January 25, 2005


However, I firmly believe that any company has the right to hire or fire anyone they wish, for any reason whatsoever.
Why? Why give them that much power? Who benefits?
posted by amberglow at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2005


"Because in his Nazi mindset he assumes that anything not explicitly allowed is verboten - and not the other way around as the corrupt minions of "democracy" would have it."

talos: You have it backwards. He assumes that anything not explicitly verboten (i.e. discriminating against smokers), is allowed. That is essentially how current discrimination laws work.
posted by nightchrome at 7:16 PM on January 25, 2005


I wonder if it IS just a healthcare expense issue. I wonder if it's a productivity thing, too. Maybe a back-door way of getting rid of mandated rest periods. I mean people get these mandated 10 minute breaks every 2 hours. Many times non-smokers work through those. But, and those of who have worked with smokers know, smokers ALWAYS take those breaks, man. You see them out there rain or shine puffing furiously away.

Just a theory.
posted by tkchrist at 7:19 PM on January 25, 2005


amberglow:
Why do you see it in terms of giving power rather than refusing to take away an existing right?
Everyone discriminates, every moment of their life. It's not something only big nameless faceless companies do. We all do it, to one degree or another.
Mostly we consider it bad, and we try to stop, but we still do it.
You can't legislate people into bettering themselves.

Also, why do you feel that a company should NOT be able to choose their employees? Should they be required to have certain types of people employed? Why is that? Do certain types of people have a right to be employed over others? Do certain types of people deserve to be in certain types of jobs? Should we force those companies with said jobs to hire those specific types of people?
Why should the government have any say in who works for you?
posted by nightchrome at 7:20 PM on January 25, 2005


Anecdotal, but whatever...

I've a close friend who worked, up until two weeks ago, for the American Heart Association. She's a light smoker. I asked her about that - did she feel like a hypocrite or anything.

She smiled a megawatt smile, exhaled and shook her head.

"No, not at all. You should see the number of obese people at AHA. They die of heart disease far more than smokers." Since she's a PhD in immunology and virology I took it pretty seriously.

Then I lit another cigarette.
posted by TeamBilly at 7:22 PM on January 25, 2005


Nightcrome I thought these people were fired for just being smokers - at work or not.

Now what if masturbating was found to increase out of pocket (no pun) benefits costs for an employer? So they fire the all masturbators...

Nah. Bad example. The office would be empty of everyone but mormons.
posted by tkchrist at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2005


All qualified people (qualified to perform the duties of the job) should be hired if they apply--that's why we have anti-discrimination laws. You're twisting it to be the opposite.
Fighting in favor of discrimination is a fool's game, because you'll be next on the list. You read a liberal blog? Fired. You have an alias online? Fired. You're not Christian? Fired. You have facial hair? Fired. You had a drink after work? Fired...The list is endless, and arbitrary. No company should be allowed that power--and our history is about making companies not discriminate. This kind of thing pushes us back to the day of gendered want ads, and all-white offices.

And if it's a productivity thing, then don't hide that behind discrimination. You can fire people for not doing their jobs. You can't mandate that people work through a legal break.
posted by amberglow at 7:26 PM on January 25, 2005


Sorry nightchrome, your'e FIRED!!!!!! Arbitrarily fired that it is, because I said so. And it didn't help that you were talking crap to the ever-lovely and insightful amberglow. BTW, I know you smoke too! Damn weekend smoker you!

(Ah, the fun we can have with the arbitrary hiring and firing practices some companies hold to.)
posted by snsranch at 7:29 PM on January 25, 2005


Big corporations are already starting to make noises about this--they know it would be cheaper. I'll dig up some links later

This might be the first time in a while I've agreed with you, amberglow. Good to know that in this divided age there actually is a lot of common ground. :)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:32 PM on January 25, 2005


tkchrist:

No, those people were fired for refusing a test to see if they were smokers which is not the same thing.
Semantics, yes, but it's important to be precise.

It doesn't matter what the reason is, my position would still be the same. Companies should be able to fire you for wearing blue socks on the second Thursday of March.
You have no inherent right to be employed by anyone, or to remain in their employ any longer than you are contracted to. Almost every employment contract states that it can be terminated by the employer at any time they choose.
Why should there be exceptions to that based solely on the reason for the termination?

amberglow:
You use the word "should" there. Why should companies be forced to do what you want them to?
Why do you feel the government should be in the business of legislating morality to companies?
You keep saying that the ability to determine who you employ is some sort of power. That doesn't make any sense. Why is it a power to employ or not employ someone, and determine where your money is spent for services? Using the word power implies there is some sort of control. As though the company were deciding the prospective employee's fate.
Again, you do not have any God-given right to work at a specific place. The company you apply to does not have any power over you. They merely have the right to accept or refuse your employ.
What is wrong with that?

snsranch:

Was that supposed to be funny or make a point?
Just because a company CAN fire people for arbitrary reasons does not mean the WILL do it. Do you think that if the discrimination laws were removed tomorrow, suddenly every company would just start firing people like mad?
Jobs need to be done. Companies need people to do those jobs. They will hire people. If one company does not hire a person for some reason, another company will.
posted by nightchrome at 7:33 PM on January 25, 2005


This is not a case of a company trying to control what their employees do in their free time.

uh yes it is. The article specifically said, "The company instituted a policy on Jan. 1 that makes it a firing offense to smoke -- even if done after business hours or at home"

If it costs more to insure those who smoke increase the cost of benefits to the employees who smoke. We do it all the time with risky behaviour associated with driving. Those who have safe driving records benefit by paying lower insurance rates and those who partake in risky behaviour pay more. Just a thought, maybe a dangerous thought.
posted by squeak at 7:34 PM on January 25, 2005


This is a heartwarming story for everyone who pays for insurance and who can be bothered to take care of themselves.

Speak for yourself and leave the rest of us out of this, would you, please? I'm pretty vehemently anti-smoking, but I think this is a ridiculous infringement on people's rights. As stupid as it is, cigarette smoking is legal. Doing something legal on your own time that in no way reflects badly on your employer should not be a fireable offense.

It seems to me that the slippery slope argument on this one isn't 'what's next, firing people who eat too much?' but 'what's next, firing people who have cancer?'. They're firing people for being at risk to get ill. If those people actually were ill, they'd be a protected class, protected from this kind of discrimination. Since they're not yet sick, but only might be, they're not. That's loophole law in my book.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:35 PM on January 25, 2005


squeak:
The company is not trying to control what employees do in their free time. They are trying to control the KIND OF PEOPLE they employ. They are trying to ensure that the people who work for them don't have habits or behaviours they disapprove of, whether at work or at home.
They are not forcing people to change.
Nobody is being held at gunpoint.
They are merely saying that if you do not fit the requirements for working at their company, you do not belong at their company.

If I run a Christian bookstore and am hiring new staff and a Satanist applies, should I not be allowed to refuse to hire that person? By current laws, I think I would be in trouble for refusing them. Is that right?
posted by nightchrome at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2005


This is such fundemental stuff people, don't get it wrong because you don't like the smell of smoke.

It is fundamental, but you're the one that's got it wrong.

If you have some moronic delusion that people just don't like "the smell of smoke", we "liberals", with science on our side (as usual), know that there is no doubt whatsoever that environmental tobacco smoke is a killer.

I constantly advise and help people to quit smoking, but it's ultimately their choice. Smoking is frankly the most shit-for-brains idea around, but that's par for homo sapiens. Many of us have grown used to, if not yet resigned to, picking up the lives tobacco shatters. Companies that employ smokers will pass the burden of that stupidity on to their nonsmoking employees and the rest of us. Smokers will take much more than their fair share of finite health care resources, driving those costs higher. We the people will continue to suffer from the economic consequences and second hand smoke of nicotine addicts, until we take smokers by the hand like children and legislate what they couldn't do (but should have done themselves):

a) protect others from their own addiction, with absolute restrictions on where smoking may occur.

b) finally pay the full price of their addiction.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:39 PM on January 25, 2005


Bort: If people with kids hurt the bottom line more than people without kids, then by your logic, not hiring people with children is just fine.

I don't think there is any evidence that people with kids hurt the bottom line. On the contrary, I dimly remember a study asserting that people with a family are good news for a company, because they are less likely to quit and more likely to lead steady lives (fewer drinking bouts etc.) and try to get ahead and be a good provider. Can't remember if that applied only to men, or also to women.
posted by sour cream at 7:41 PM on January 25, 2005


I honestly don't see how anyone can even make this discussion be about smoking. The smoking is entirely beside the point, in my opinion.
This is about whether or not a company has the right to determine who works for them.

However, the fact that smoking is involved means we will get the militant smokers' rights people and the militant non-smokers into some sort of battl royale, and nothing will come of it.
posted by nightchrome at 7:41 PM on January 25, 2005


You have no inherent right to be employed by anyone [snip] Companies should be able to fire you for wearing blue socks on the second Thursday of March.

Man. That's some good news. I can finally fire all these goddamned blue-sock wearing jews!
posted by tkchrist at 7:47 PM on January 25, 2005


f_and_m, it's been said before, but obesity is overtaking smoking as the No. 1 Killer. Do you think we should take fat people by the hand too and tell them what they can and cannot eat?

nightchrome: This is about whether or not a company has the right to determine who works for them.

Of course they do. They could ask about smoking in their job interviews and decide not to hire any smokers. But suddenly firing them because they are smokers is a little knottier.
posted by sour cream at 7:50 PM on January 25, 2005


If I run a Christian bookstore and am hiring new staff and a Satanist applies, should I not be allowed to refuse to hire that person? By current laws, I think I would be in trouble for refusing them. Is that right?
Their religion or lack thereof has absolutely no bearing on whether they can do the job, and you are not legally allowed to ask what someone's religion is either, during an interview--your discriminatory attitude leaves you open to a lawsuit, and possible loss of your business if you lose it. We have Equal Opportunity Laws in this country, and you'd be in violation, i believe.

Additionally, If the bookstore receives any state, city, or federal funds or does business with a locality, you'd also be in violation of those anti-discrimination laws. There was an enormous uproar about just that with Bush's faith-based grants--companies receiving money from the government are not allowed to discriminate.

You keep saying that the ability to determine who you employ is some sort of power. That doesn't make any sense. Why is it a power to employ or not employ someone, and determine where your money is spent for services? Using the word power implies there is some sort of control. As though the company were deciding the prospective employee's fate.
You obviously don't have to work for a living, or you wouldn't even question how i feel about this. We HAVE to work to live in this country, and for too long, companies discriminated, keeping all sorts of qualified people out--minorities and women mostly. When my grandfather was young, he couldn't get hired by Wall St. firms because he was Jewish. That's the kind of thing we're trying to make progress towards stopping. He was qualified, but happened to be the wrong religion. Should we go back to those days? I guess you think that would be ok? Ass.
posted by amberglow at 7:50 PM on January 25, 2005


Why do you feel the government should be in the business of legislating morality to companies?

Man. They sure seem interested in legislating morality to ME.

I can't hire underage asian prositutes at near the rate I'd like, nor can I shoot people for fun.

Damn legislat'n morality governmental do-gooders!
posted by tkchrist at 7:50 PM on January 25, 2005


Man. That's some good news. I can finally fire all these goddamned blue-sock wearing jews!

and i see tkchrist beat me to it! ; >
posted by amberglow at 7:52 PM on January 25, 2005


tkchrist:
It's fine to make jokes about it, but I was hoping that rather than approach something you disagree with by ridiculing it, you might try to discuss it more. I am aware that my position is a rather unpopular one. People feel that because discrimination is wrong, it should be illegal.

I believe discrimination is wrong.
I do not believe it should be illegal.

Employment is a contract between two people, an agreement if you will, that money will be exchanged for services at a given rate.
Friendship is also an agreement between two people, in which assorted intangible benefits will be exchanged.
Should the government force people to not discriminate against others when choosing their friends? Should you be sued for ending your friendship with someone for an arbitrary reason?

Where is the difference between the two?
Is it because money is involved? How does that make one illegal and the other not? Do you have some right to receive money?
posted by nightchrome at 7:53 PM on January 25, 2005


Yes they are trying to control behaviour. If you smoke you will be fired. If you quit smoking you can continue to be employed here. That is controlling behaviour.

If I sought employment somewhere and there were policies in place before I was employed I would agree with the employer being able to institute such a policy. But in this case they have made a retroactive policy that these employees had no control over when it was instituted - they were already employed with the company.

I think your missing the point here. This is about controlling behaviour outside of the work place as well as in the work place. Control behaviour in the work place - sure, outside of the work place and (place expletive here).
posted by squeak at 7:53 PM on January 25, 2005


nightchrome, my jocular comment was meant to illustrate what can happen when Any business can eliminate Any person for Any reason.

I have to rail against the idea that any person can be fired for anything other than lack of performance.

As a civil servant, and supervisor of many people, it has been very difficult over the years to get over the fact that most of my employees are; obese, smelly, obtuse, foreign (to me), disabled, and sometimes just idiots. (And whatever else you can think of.)

Those people work for me and I wouldn't trade any single one of them away. They ALL work hard for a living. Many wouldn't have jobs if it were not for civil service appointments, but I'm thankful for it, and I'm thankful that they have a place where they can truly perform and be appreciated.
posted by snsranch at 7:55 PM on January 25, 2005


When friendship involves wages and taxes and labor, then it'll be regulated--the two are not at all alike. Employment Discrimination has held millions of people down--it's only in our lifetimes that people are starting to make progress, and you want to go backwards? You're ok with beefing up welfare and assistance then, of course, because most Americans will be unemployed and unemployable according to your views.

and you ridicule this issue at the same time you knock tk for doing the same to you?
posted by amberglow at 7:57 PM on January 25, 2005


I honestly don't see how anyone can even make this discussion be about smoking. The smoking is entirely beside the point, in my opinion. This is about whether or not a company has the right to determine who works for them.

Alright, nightchrome...have it your way. You're in favor of firing all females then? How about all blacks? Or Jews? Since you're in favor of total leeway in whom a company can hire and fire I assume you'd be in favor of the above situations. And I find that ridiculous.

on preview: people are saying the same thing.
posted by rooftop secrets at 7:57 PM on January 25, 2005


amberglow:
I work for a living, have for many years now.
I am aware of how the law currently views these things, and yes, I know that discrimination based on religion is wrong. That was my entire point.
I don't think it should be wrong.

Bringing personal insults into the discussion is really classy.
If you can't talk civilly about the situation, why bother?

tkchrist:
Is the only reason you don't shoot people because the government tells you not to? If so, you've got some serious issues.

It's funny how when I talk about the morality of hiring discrimination, the first thing brought up is that the government legislates where the morality of killing is concerned...so it should be fine.

So you think the government should legislate ALL morality then, without concern for the degree of severity? Say, it should legislate against pre-marital sex? Or swearing?
Taking an extremist all-or-nothing stance won't help.
posted by nightchrome at 7:59 PM on January 25, 2005


Wow. I really didn't think that something like this would occur in the year 2005.

Many thoughts: yes, the company has the right to determine who it wants to employ, and who it does not want to employ. I almost always come down in favor of MegaCorp. BUT -- how much "warning" did the smoking employees get? Were they told "You have one week to quit smoking?" Or were they told a year ago? And why are there no "grandfathered" employees? After all, quitting smoking is a difficult thing to do -- it literally is an addiction, and I've heard of studies which claim that tobacco is harder to quit than any other drug (including heroin, cocaine, etc). Should the company have allowed a grace period of six months? One year? Five years? Or perhaps gone with a "no new hires that smoke," while continuing to employ the current smokers and keep trying to persuade them to quit?

Second, I think this is damn foolish of the company. Sure it has the right to do it -- but I really doubt that the negative press, pissed-off employees, and other fallout from this kind of policy will make up for the few dollars that the company saves. As pointed out above -- if smoking employees die 10 years earlier than non-smoking employees, then the company will save a lot more money on retirement checks than it will spend on a few bucks more in healthcare during the employees' tenure.

Third...well, there is no third. I'm just really surprised that this guy/company instituted this policy...it's their prerogative, but I think it's going to backfire.
posted by davidmsc at 8:00 PM on January 25, 2005


I don't think there is any evidence that people with kids hurt the bottom line. [snip] Can't remember if that applied only to men, or also to women

Well I can tell you as a BUSINESS OWNER that that is bullsh*t. People with kids - especially young kids - are a pain in the ass. "Oh my kid is puking at daycare so I gotta go..." yadda yadda yadda. I have three employees with small children that are absent five or six times more than anybody else. One is now pregnant AGAIN!

It is non-stop. What they are good at is begging you to keep their job "because I got kids to support."

If it was up to my pure selfish interest and profit I'd only hire 4-year college educated single non-smoking white mormon men between the ages of 24-28. Then fire them promptly: at age 29; or if they got married; started drinking; changed religions or became one of those pesky anti-authoritarian liberal agnostics who question everything.
posted by tkchrist at 8:02 PM on January 25, 2005


I notice a lot of people seem to think that I am in favor of discrimination. It's interesting that everyone makes this sort of assumption and then begins insulting me on it.

I don't think discrimination is a good thing.
I am wholeheartedly against discrimination.

But I am also against the government enforcing standards of judgement.
It's interesting how supposedly tolerant and caring individuals resort to namecalling and rudeness in an otherwise civil discussion, merely because someone in it holds an unpopular opinion.
Interesting and sad.
posted by nightchrome at 8:03 PM on January 25, 2005


david brings up a good point--most companies (but obviously not this one) have learned that discriminating is really really really bad for business, not to mention bad press.

nightchrome, if you have to work for a living, and are really ok with being fired for any reason at any time--no matter what, then there's nothing i can say to you except, "Wake up". It'd be a pity for you to be out on the street because you were fired for some arbitrary reason, or because you might someday get a disease, or because you wore a pink shirt.
posted by amberglow at 8:04 PM on January 25, 2005


And it's not "standards of judgment." You're painting this as some draconian nanny-state governmental thing, when it's actually the company acting in a draconian nanny-state manner.
posted by amberglow at 8:07 PM on January 25, 2005


amberglow:
Just because a company CAN fire someone for arbitrary reasons, doesn't mean that they WILL. Any company that makes a habit of doing so is going to earn the public's enmity. Such a business which makes a habit of it will eventually not be in business anymore.

Positive change regarding discrimination comes from changing people's views, not by chaining them down with laws.

On preview:
I am not saying that I agree with what the company is doing.
I think they are being stupid, certainly.
I am just saying that, stupid or not, they should not be restricted from doing it.
posted by nightchrome at 8:08 PM on January 25, 2005


your loaded language throughout this thread ("chaining them down with laws" ?!?) says otherwise.
posted by amberglow at 8:10 PM on January 25, 2005


I constantly advise [...] people to quit smoking

I've yelled at enough of you folk when I've been pestered at bus stops. (Typically when I'm outside of the enclosed bus shelter; 10 feet away, downwind.) Trust me, most people don't appreciate it in the least.

I smoke. I also work harder than most people who don't. (Speaking only in the context of my place of work.) I haven't been sick in 2 years, and I smoke a pack a day. It's an anecdote, but I offer it as reasoning as to why I find this company's non-smoking ideology to be nothing short of nonsense.

Everyonne gets sick.

As Bill Hicks perfectly summed it up:

"Non-smokers; I'm gonna shatter your world right here. Get ready.... Non-smokers die every day. Some of you seem to entertain these eternal life complexes."
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2005


fold_and_mutilate: we "liberals", with science on our side (as usual), know that there is no doubt whatsoever that environmental tobacco smoke is a killer.

I wouldn't use "no doubt whatsoever". Either you are uninformed or I have to assume you are deliberately ignoring conflicting data.
posted by Gyan at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2005


nightcrome I DO have serious issues. Just ask jonmc on that Carson thread. Heh. I digress.

I'm a business owner. I sympathize with your argument.

What about the conflicts with constitutional rights? How can you justify firing people arbitrarily for what they do (legally) outside of work? How can they even ASK?

Can I fire gun owners? Can you imagine what THAT would do?

The privacy issues this potentially raises.

What about a questionnaire - hooked to a lie detector - where they ask you if you engage in anal sex at home.

Nah. Man. Employers cannot have carte blanche to fire for things an employee does outside of work that does not directly effect his/her performance at work. Too slippery a slope.
posted by tkchrist at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2005


It's not that I think you're in favor of discrimination, I just think you are in favor of allowing it. Which you are.

Positive change regarding discrimination comes from changing people's views, not by chaining them down with laws.


Sometimes the latter can have the effect of the former.

Any company that makes a habit of doing so is going to earn the public's enmity.

Not when the discriminatory factor is out of public favor (read: Big Tobacco). I think a lot of people will cheer this decision, unfortunately.

Such a business which makes a habit of it will eventually not be in business anymore.

I'm sure all the white-only businesses of the 1950s had a real hard time staying open. They definitely would have folded without those pesky Civil Rights acts.

Bottom line: bad precedent, stupid business move, and should be illegal.
posted by rooftop secrets at 8:16 PM on January 25, 2005


amberglow:

What makes money/labour different from any other contract between consenting adults? Why does it get special treatment? Why should your choices be determined by the government only in those situations?

To take the other side for a moment, why shouldn't the government also tell you who you MUST hire? Why shouldn't the government tell you where you MUST work?
What makes your stance on this issue any different from state-run business such as in communism?

tkchrist:

Well, how does this infringe on the employee's constitutional rights?
Do you have a constitutional right to be employed somewhere? To not have your job cancelled at any moment?
As of right now, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, and who knows what else is illegal.
I don't argue that, it's fact.
Should it be illegal? I would say no.
posted by nightchrome at 8:18 PM on January 25, 2005


rooftop secrets:
Do you really think that business practices would not have changed if the government had not stepped in and made it illegal to discriminate against non-whites?
Society was changing already. People's views and beliefs were changing already. It was slow progress, but it was progress nonetheless.
I am positive that things would have improved, albeit slower than they have so far.

Maybe I just have too much faith in the inherent decency of my fellow human beings.
posted by nightchrome at 8:21 PM on January 25, 2005


tkchrist: Well I can tell you as a BUSINESS OWNER that that is bullsh*t.

Hey partner, I'm a business owner too! Nothing spectacular, but we do employ 7 people all in all. I really can't confirm that people with kids are absent more often. When they are, they make up for it on the weekend or so. But thinking back now, the people who quit who we would have liked to keep were all people without kids.
As for maternity leave, yeah, this has hit us twice within the last two years. For a small company like us, this is indeed a problem, since it costs us money to train someone who is then gone for a year or maybe forever (Fortunately, both mothers are back and working hard now).
So, while I do keep an open mind about these things, I do find myself giving a slight bonus to male applicants, thinking that they probably won't ask for maternity leave. Or when I interview a woman, I do ask them in a friendly manner if they have plans to procreate in the next few years. Fortunately, this question is legal in this country (obviously not the U.S.)
posted by sour cream at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2005


People who smoke are willingly risking their health, I don't see why a business should have to risk their bottom line by hiring people who will be sick more often than someone who doesn't smoke.

Riiight.. Because its all about the business bottom line, it has nothing to do with actual people.

Yes, it will die in the courts. But how stupid is this? That's like firing Einstein for being unkempt. Just Stupid.
Especially considering that he smoked..

I work for a living, have for many years now.
No shit, really!? How special you are!
posted by c13 at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2005


Well, how does this infringe on the employee's constitutional rights?
Do you have a constitutional right to be employed somewhere? To not have your job cancelled at any moment?
As of right now, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, and who knows what else is illegal.
I don't argue that, it's fact.
Should it be illegal? I would say no.


Wow. Do you understand the implications of that?
Hmmm: "Feed my kids. OR. Have a (name your constitutional right)."

You really want businesses to force people to make those choices? What kind of place would you live in then? Not a prosperous modern constitutional republic or democracy.

Good thread, BTW.
posted by tkchrist at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2005


tkchrist:
People have to make those decisions every day, for reasons other than being discriminated against. I don't think it would necessarily become a whole lot worse just because businesses can be more specific about who they wish to employ.
If a given business won't employ someone, another business will. Or a new business will arise which will.
Any number of possibilities exist.
Where there is a job to be done, people will be needed to do it.

I'm going to lunch. My silence on the issue over the next hour
is not out of malice or a snit or any other such thing.
I'm enjoying the discussion, heated as it may be, even despite the namecalling. I like to think we can discuss things civilly, even from such very different points of view.
posted by nightchrome at 8:26 PM on January 25, 2005


Or when I interview a woman, I do ask them in a friendly manner if they have plans to procreate in the next few years

I just ask them if they are interested in practicing. The pretty ones anyway.

I KEEED I KEEED!

PS. My Biz partner is my wife so lets keep all this on the down low.
posted by tkchrist at 8:27 PM on January 25, 2005


Maybe I just have too much faith in the inherent decency of my fellow human beings.

I think that may be the fundamental divide here. I just don't trust people to be good and fair, and think there should be legal recourse for people who are treated unfairly.
posted by rooftop secrets at 8:29 PM on January 25, 2005


nightcrome

Yeah sure. Go TO LUNCH! You racist lunch eater! ;-)

I gotta go to. But not because I'm in a snit, either. I... I... just have something in my eye... sniff...
posted by tkchrist at 8:30 PM on January 25, 2005


how is the government telling you something (in this case, that you can't discriminate in hiring) at all comparable to them forcing you to hire someone? It's apples and oranges--not all laws and regulations are a bad thing--some of them actually make our lives better, and the country better. If our country did force people to hire certain other people, we'd become a lousy country (and see all the cronyism in local govts for an example, and see Kerik). Thankfully, we're usually making progress in the other direction--letting more people earn a living instead of just who a boss somewhere likes or is comfortable with. It's a balancing act.

And "the business of America is business." Don't ever forget that. Businesses have enormous power and control in this country, so laws and regulations were and still are established to balance out the rights of the people. It's an ongoing fight--see all the copyright stuff, for one example. We'll be seeing anti-offshoring laws soon too, hopefully. We also give corporations enormous tax breaks--welfare even. They're not hurting because they can't be racist, or absolute dictators within their businesses.
posted by amberglow at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2005


*gives tkchrist a tissue, then fires him for crying on the job*
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on January 25, 2005


Maybe I just have too much faith in the inherent decency of my fellow human beings.
This is why it important to study history.

Concerning zwemer's comments, why should we have health care at all? You're sick? Well, its your own damn fault...
posted by c13 at 8:36 PM on January 25, 2005


But I am also against the government enforcing standards of judgement.

NC, in spite of many people's distaste for governmental regulation of anything (and that includes myself), it still seems to have a role to play in controlling corporate (as well as private) actions. Thus we have laws against a myriad of corporate shenanegans (including deciding that all smokers, who are, after all, doing something that is legal, are bad and/or expensive employees), and laws against private idiocy (hate-crime legislation).

One question that seems to be arising is: Do companies have rights, just as private individuals have rights? The corporate world has used the 14th amendment to assert that they do (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company is the notorious example).

It's pretty easily demonstrated that any given corporation will test the limits of the law in the quest for profits (easier and less expensive to dump industrial waste into the nearest body of water rather than cleaning up the mess, for example; easier to deny women/minorities/smokers/fill in the blank employment because they don't fit whatever corporate policy). Ergo, corporations, being neither individuals (IMHO) nor driven by any desire to do the "right" thing, other than enrich its coffers, must be regulated. Not because it's something that's "good" or "right," but because it's needed.

Another thought: What if the company enacting this policy were a JumboMegaCorp like Wal-Mart? Would everyone's opinion be the same? Wally World is the biggest employer in the U.S. Now, they'd be crazy to do it because they'd be out a lot of employees. However, to defend it because, though reprehensible, there simply shouldn't be such regulations, gives companies far too much power. Like they don't have enough already.

(on preview: holy crap, am I ever a slow typer)
posted by MiHail at 9:02 PM on January 25, 2005


here's a blog on HealthCare and all related topics--of interest is this Krugman thing about how Canada's system is liked by their corps. (lots of interesting stuff there)

and this: Single-Payer Gets Big Steel's 'Support'

and this
posted by amberglow at 9:13 PM on January 25, 2005


But I am also against the government enforcing standards of judgement.

At one point in time we had the Industrial Revolution where children were working 12 hours or more at cotton jenny's for peanuts. Where people were being injured, maimed and killed while they worked for someone else and there were no laws to protect the workers. The employers certainly didn't care they just hired another kid and kept producing cheap cotton fabric (among other things). Out of this rose unions, fairer work practices, better wages and laws to protect workers from unscrupulous employers.

I don't have that inherent trust that my fellow humans will act decently and expect government to step in to create laws and policies to try to keep things fair and balanced. The whole idea is to create a set of rules under which to preform a certain set of actions rather than making up rules as you go along.

What makes money/labour different from any other contract between consenting adults?

Even contracts between consenting adults have laws in place to protect both parties.

on preview: what MiHail said.
posted by squeak at 9:17 PM on January 25, 2005


Back from lunch.

rooftop secrets:
Yes, I understand. I think that if left to our own devices as we are now, things would be really bad...for awhile.
But I also think that we'd overcome it.
Am I a dreamer? Maybe.

c13:
I stated that I am employed because, initially, it was implied that I am not. That's all.

amberglow:
How is telling someone they can't not hire someone different from telling them they must hire someone?
Likewise, how is telling someone they can't fire someone different from telling them they must employ someone?
It seems to be a very small step.

MiHail:
I agree that companies need to be regulated.
What I don't agree with is the idea that the government should be the one regulating them.
Keeping corporations in line is the duty of the consumer and the worker. If you allow your company to discriminate, you are part of the problem. Likewise if you purchase goods or services from companies which discriminate.
It's not easy to do, certainly. Getting government to step in and do the hard work for you is a lot easier, but it results in people caring less about the fundamental concepts behind their choices...because the government will keep the "bad guys" from doing "bad things".
It's a little tangential to the topic, but I would posit that the way we view law and governmental control over our actions is what is responsible for the crumbling sense of personal responsibility people take in current times.
posted by nightchrome at 9:20 PM on January 25, 2005


tkchrist:

I wonder if it IS just a healthcare expense issue. I wonder if it's a productivity thing, too. Maybe a back-door way of getting rid of mandated rest periods. I mean people get these mandated 10 minute breaks every 2 hours. Many times non-smokers work through those. But, and those of who have worked with smokers know, smokers ALWAYS take those breaks, man. You see them out there rain or shine puffing furiously away.

One of the reasons I ever picked up a pack of cigarettes was because I worked at a job where I busted my ass every day for eight hours a day and was only given a half-hour period during that day to try to cook a decent meal.

Forget about resting.

When I actually did join my fellow employees outside for a smoke, I noticed that they were suddenly easier to talk to because of the fact that we had something in common (smokers are just about as loyal to each other as they are to their cigarettes).

After returning to the dungeon that was my workplace, the 10-15 minute respite in the mid-day sun had lifted my spirits, and refreshed my mind (heck, I think someone might have actually cracked a joke out there once or twice!).

Upon my return I was almost always greeted with reproachful glances from my coworkers as a mother would look at her son returning from the pub. I feel this is an undeserved guilt I could have done without. Many workers similarly detach from their duties for a moment to take an "indirect" route to the water-cooler, or to read a particularly interesting article in the daily news. Peter Gibbons will tell you that in a week he does about "15 minutes of real work," and he's not even a smoker!

To get back on topic here, let's assume that I am a non-smoker when become employed with Weyco Inc., but decide to start smoking afterwards because I like the breaks and new friends I have made. Suddenly the company wants to start firing employees who are smokers. Now I have a new pet addiction to try to break and am all the more irritable at work because of it.

The bottom line is that any "At-Will" employer can shed itself of a worker for any reason. But I think the biggest reason Weyco Inc. fired its smokers was:

#1 - Because many non-smokers carry an immature intolerance for the act, and are rudely vociferous about their expression of it.

#2 - To save money on health care.
posted by Demogorgon at 9:21 PM on January 25, 2005


night: It is the job of the government to enact laws and regulations and to protect citizens. Why do you have a problem with that?
posted by amberglow at 9:24 PM on January 25, 2005


What I don't agree with is the idea that the government should be the one regulating them.
Keeping corporations in line is the duty of the consumer and the worker.


Ah, but who is supposed to represent the consumer and the worker so that they have collective power?

The government.

Of course getting the government to step in and do the hard work is easier than launching a one-person protest against the Waycos of the world. That's why it's there (or why it's supposed to be there...or maybe why I'd like it to be there. Now I guess I'm being idealistic).
posted by MiHail at 9:26 PM on January 25, 2005


Oops, amber beat me to it.
posted by MiHail at 9:27 PM on January 25, 2005


amberglow:
Why do citizens need protection from discrimination in the workplace? Again, this boils down to the idea that you have a right to be able to work. Do you think everyone has a right to be able to work?

Protection from being knifed or shot, yes.
Protection from being fired? Not so clear there...

MiHail:
So people can't come together for a common cause and make things better for one another without government intervention?
posted by nightchrome at 9:28 PM on January 25, 2005


If you have some moronic delusion that people just don't like "the smell of smoke", we "liberals", with science on our side (as usual), know that there is no doubt whatsoever that environmental tobacco smoke is a killer.

I'm a liberal with the legal system on my side.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:34 PM on January 25, 2005


So people can't come together for a common cause and make things better for one another without government intervention?

Of course they can. My point was that it is much harder. Sometimes deadlier.
posted by MiHail at 9:39 PM on January 25, 2005


"I feel like the problem lies way more in the insane costs of health care..."

Indeed. Let's not be distracted from the root issue here. With any kind of decent health care system in this country, none of this would be likely to matter. Employers wouldn't be directly paying for employees' health care, so they wouldn't have such a direct interest on keeping those costs down.
posted by litlnemo at 9:42 PM on January 25, 2005


I'm off for some long-delayed studying (ah, Metafilter...my favorite procrastination device). Glad you enjoyed your lunch, nightchrome....I'll have to pick this up later.
posted by MiHail at 9:43 PM on January 25, 2005


Of course they can. My point was that it is much harder. Sometimes deadlier.

I would argue that it is ultimately more rewarding and results in fewer problems later on than the easy way out of having government enforce your standards for you.
If companies have shown their tendency to resort to nefarious practices when given leeway, the same could be said for government except on a far grander scale.

At least we can control corporations with our spending habits. We have far, far less control over government than most people think we do.
posted by nightchrome at 9:44 PM on January 25, 2005


Maybe it would be wise to also screen them for genetic defects , flue , sexual deviancy or anything that would decrease their potential value or become a liability.

yes. you just saved me from a rant of my own.
posted by blendor at 11:12 PM on January 25, 2005


ok, let's see if I can contribute..

No, I do not have an inherent right to work at Mircrosoft (for example). I do however have an inherent right to live. To live, at least in the United States, requires that you have money. Money is most successfully obtained and maintained thru a job. So it's not too broad to say, in order to live I need a job, generally speaking. So yes I do have a right to have a job. What if there were no regulations, and any company could fire you for being Jewish. If any company can, then all companies can. Now you have an environment where it would be legal to not give any Jews jobs.. Denying them the right to live.
Yeah I know this is at least borderline slippery slope fallacy...

But you say regulation of business is ok, but no by gov't. I'm afraid there's not really anyone else who can do the job. I agree in many ways with limiting gov't intervention, and letting companies do as they want being limited in power by the consumer as it were. unfortunately that is a bit of a dream. Megacorps have become too big and entrenched to self regulate that way.

It's hard to take a definite side in this.. both sides present valid points of course. Both sides also say asinine things, but such is the human condition.
posted by MrBobaFett at 11:14 PM on January 25, 2005


This kind of limiting of employees' freedom is inevitable in capitalism, IMO. Corporations have a lot of leverage over employees who can't easily find another job and need to pay their bills. Thus they will tend to do whatever improves profitability.

The way that this has been countered by working people historically is through labor movements - unions and general strikes. But as more and more jobs have become at least nominally "white collar" or service jobs, fewer and fewer workers are unionized.
posted by mai at 11:43 PM on January 25, 2005


Do you really think that business practices would not have changed if the government had not stepped in and made it illegal to discriminate against non-whites?
Society was changing already. People's views and beliefs were changing already. It was slow progress, but it was progress nonetheless.
I am positive that things would have improved, albeit slower than they have so far.


Slower than they have so far? there are still communities in the US where if a non-white person is seen walking or driving in public after dark by a police officer, they will be kindly encouraged to allow themselves to be escorted over the county line. Slower, you say? How much time do you have?
posted by juv3nal at 11:54 PM on January 25, 2005


juv3nal: there are still communities in the US where if a non-white person is seen walking or driving in public after dark by a police officer, they will be kindly encouraged to allow themselves to be escorted over the county line.

Out of curiosity, where?
posted by Gyan at 12:12 AM on January 26, 2005


Apologies. County is overstating the case, more a neighborhood/suburb in Texas although the name escapes me (didn't happen to me personally). One particularly amusing anecdote is this Colombian girl was almost thusly escorted until her parents came out of the house and it was established that she was, in fact, hanging out outside her own house (so, yes non-whites are allowed to own property there). I wouldn't be surprised if you could encounter the same thing elsewhere in the south.
posted by juv3nal at 12:46 AM on January 26, 2005


Okay, nightchrome, I'm wary of wading in this late, but there's some stuff in your various posts that seems to point to an enormous blind spot in your understanding of the relationship between labour and capital in most Western societies. So here's hoping you'll take this as counterpointing and not snarking or what-have-you . . .

What makes money/labour different from any other contract between consenting adults?

Labour laws. More than a century of labour laws, dating back to the dawn of the industrial revolution, when companies and the people who ran them started acquiring the kind of power that some citizens of most democracies decided needed a counterbalance.

What I don't agree with is the idea that the government should be the one regulating them.
Keeping corporations in line is the duty of the consumer and the worker.


Many of the labour laws that attempt to curtail corporations from doing anything they want were enacting by groups of workers (and more recently consumers) who banded together to fight collectively because they found the kind of laissez-faire corporation-vs.-individual-worker negotiations you seem to be advocating to be totally incapable of handling the task to their satisfaction.

Why do citizens need protection from discrimination in the workplace?

To avoid, for example, the exclusion of entire groups of people from the workforce based on the colour of their skin, their religion, or (in this case) their choice of legal recreational activities.

Seriously, nightchrome, there's a pretty long and detailed history of the conflict you're sort of offhandedly dismissing that started (more or less) with these guys, caused or contributed significantly to every major war of the 20th century, and continues to dominate the debate about the nature of our economic system even today.

I'm not trying to snark here, but honestly most of your questions in this thread are answered at length by the hundreds of years workers/consumers have spent fighting back against the awesome power of capital/corporations. Why do people think they have this or that right? Because they (or their forebears) fought for it, and won it, and (hopefully) won't give it away for the sake of the convenience or efficiency of this or that corporation.
posted by gompa at 1:08 AM on January 26, 2005


gompa gets right to the heart of the matter. Unfortunately libertarians tend to have a serious blind spot about power politics, so I wouldn't hold out too much hope of convincing nightchrome his views are a bit ... misguided.
posted by dopeypanda at 1:19 AM on January 26, 2005


I don't think discrimination is a good thing. I am wholeheartedly against discrimination.

But I am also against the government enforcing standards of judgement.
This may come as a shock to you, but before the government enforced these sorts of standards, women and blacks couldn't get decent jobs in this country. Christ, women couldn't even vote until 85 years ago.

You may not be "for" discrimination, but the model you are proposing -- where the government does not enforce standards upon business -- has already been tried, and resulted in massive discrimination. We've moved beyond that, and it's absurd to suggest that was a mistake and claim you are also against discrimination. Frankly, it makes my brain hurt.
posted by cj_ at 1:24 AM on January 26, 2005


So people can't come together for a common cause and make things better for one another without government intervention?

Look, I'm getting tired of typing out the same rant about the definition of government for every kid that read way too much Ayn Rand growing up. So let me make this brief. The government is not some boogeyman independent of the people. It is a representative body. The whole intent of the government is to be a forum where people come together. It's purpose is to write laws that uphold an underlying social contract that we the people have set forth. Laws against the sort of discrimination we're talking about are not there because some big computer with a capital G on it decided to make them up. They were put in place by a small group of people, who represent a much larger group of people, who happen to have real gripes. If you disagree with said laws, you are free to write your representative in congress. Other options include moving, taking up arms, or changing other people's minds on the matter.

And yes, you are a dreamer, or a terrible judge of history, human nature, capitalism, etc. The crux of your belief is that these things will just work themselves out. But they won't, and most people already know that. There are countless examples from the past, in this society and others, that point this out. Your opinion is based on faith in people. That and $3 buys you a cup of coffee these days.

End of civics lesson.
posted by drpynchon at 1:28 AM on January 26, 2005


Because its all about the business bottom line

Actually business wise this is short-sighted on two counts.

Perhaps if people are commodities and are fungible then you can get away with this. Otherwise you may be releasing talent onto the market for your competitor to pick up cheap. A lot of rainmakers in my company are smokers and there's no way management would want these guys out the door. It would cost millions in lost revenues.

Even if people are cattle, this also goes against the currently popular theory that having a diversity of opinions and characters in a company is beneficial. The guy willing to say "I'm going to f@cking smoke no matter what the surgeon general says cuz I like it" may be just the kind of guy that will balance out your management team and point out things beyond your own narrow world view. So might the mother to be and the gay fat guy.

You better know the value of the asset you are throwing away before you hit eject.
posted by missbossy at 2:16 AM on January 26, 2005


When did MetaFilter turn into nightchrome's libertarian blogspace?
posted by syzygy at 2:21 AM on January 26, 2005


The obverse sides of a couple of coins:

I'm a smoker. A smoker who would have no problem at all if his government banned the sale and consumption of tobacco. It'd save a lot of the BS & hypocrisy around the industry & habit.

nightchrome - you were posting, then absented yourself for an hour for lunch. Unless part of your job description or normal duties is "posting to metafilter", most employers would consider that as stealing time or resources. In my part of the world, that's called "stealing while a servant", a crime treated more harshly than normal everyday theft.

Enjoy the fruits of your libertarian world...

(Q: Why isn't "metafilter" in the metafilter dictionary?)
posted by Pinback at 3:10 AM on January 26, 2005


Re: the right to work.

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
And is it my idea or did Fold_and_Mutilate just indirectly advocate corporate unaccountability? The world is coming to an end, surely.
posted by talos at 3:28 AM on January 26, 2005


As a legal product sold in stores everywhere, tobacco is advocated by the business community and by local, state, and federal governments. If it's legal and you're consuming it outside of work and as approved by the manufacturer and by government regulatory bodies, no private concern should be able to step in and make you quit. (If you miss too many days or spend too much time standing on the back step, the company can get you for that, regardless of the cause.)

The real problem is that smoking (almost universally acknowledged as a nasty, dangerous addiction that most addicts wish they could break) is not better regulated against and not sufficiently scorned.

For a start, the government should shut down all domestic tobacco companies (take the profit motive out of smoking-related legislative activities) and put all tobacco taxes (on imported tobacco) directly into smoking-related research and health care -- make smoking pay for its entire cost to society, and use the higher estimate if there's an argument over what that cost is, but don't allow smoking to pay for other things or you'll only encourage government dependence on tolerating it.

Then people need to work socially on getting people to quit. Treat smokers like you would treat someone who strolled in off the street with dog shit smeared on his forehead. Do not tolerate smoking socially. I don't mean pick a fight with smokers--don't walk up and heckle them to their faces or eventually you'll have no teeth--but reject them socially. Turn your back on them. Make them feel like the opposite of cool. Make every party a no-smoking party and do not invite smokers who will keep nipping outside to have one. Do not go places where they allow smoking. If people close to you smoke, do not tolerate it; if you have any leverage, work on them (nicely but firmly) until they stop. Also, of course, do not shop where they sell cigarettes.

I speak as a smoker, as someone who almost wishes his company would force him to quit smoking. Instead, the company tolerates it, the government tolerates, the people in the street tolerate it, and the family tolerates it. "Oh, look! He's killing himself! And in such an unattractive, smelly, and expensive manner! Isn't that nice!" But I don't want private companies (profit first, people second) being the ones to decide such things.
posted by pracowity at 4:11 AM on January 26, 2005


Pracowity, you are personally accountable for your own actions. It is not the duty of the gov't or your company to tell you to stop smoking. That is your own responsibility.

It would be one thing if they offered assistance in quitting to those who asked for help. But to dictate it as a policy is, well draconian.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:06 AM on January 26, 2005


So people can't come together for a common cause and make things better for one another without government intervention?

drpynchon already explained this well, but the point is that when "people come together for a common cause to make things better", they are creating governing bodies, or governments! You can argue that we should have more localized instead of federalized governments, or something, but considering the speed of information transfer these days, "local" seems almost like a quaint word.

Government is the representation of the reflective choices of the citizens. It allows the individuals to be powerful by being organized - each individual may feel it unworthy of their effort to give up buying product A even though they disagree with the company's policies because they don't really think it'll make a difference, since they have no guarantee others will do the same. Voting on representatives to discuss and hammer out the details of how these things ought to be handled allows the consumer a) not to have to investigate every single product they buy to make sure the company doesn't discriminate against homosexuals or jews or women (or whatever) and b) to be assured that their view will actually have a voice.
posted by mdn at 6:03 AM on January 26, 2005


Gyan and KevinSkomsvold - thanks for the links.
posted by squealy at 6:53 AM on January 26, 2005


One main problem with doing away with discrimination laws is that entire industries would probably become very narrow - I'm sure many companies would really like to only have young white males working for them. As a woman, I'd rather have a choice of companies that are at least SUPPOSED to consider me fairly, as opposed to companies that might only hire men because I *might* get pregnant, or because, after all, I'm just a stupid girl.
posted by agregoli at 7:33 AM on January 26, 2005


100+ comments and no one has likened health risks from smoking to that of eating red meat? Maybe mefi isn't all that predictable anymore.
posted by adampsyche at 8:09 AM on January 26, 2005


Anyone in this thread who doesn't like the way this company is doing business in regards to their paying for health care should realize that it will get MUCH worse before it gets better. If you really have an issue with it you should be supporting a single-payer plan like most of the rest of the industrialised world. And stop listening to Leader lie when he demonizes lawyers. HMOs, elected officials, and money (duh) are the problem. True, people need to take responsibily for their choices, but unless we want to make breathing an excuse for denying coverage something needs to change, and soon.
posted by terrapin at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2005


It will continue to get worse until people recognize the need to organize in a manner that equalizes the power relationship between employer and employee, such that negotiation of mutually-agreeable employment contracts can be had.

Until that time, employees are going to continue to find themselves holding the short end of the stick.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 AM on January 26, 2005


Me: not a smoker, think smoking in enclosed public places should probably be banned. But I think this business' policy is absolutely insane and wrong. Christ, what next?

And, yeah, can we also link health care to something other than employment in the first place in the US? How does that make sense?
posted by kyrademon at 10:10 AM on January 26, 2005


>Anyone in this thread who doesn't like the way this company is doing business in regards to their paying for health care should realize that it will get MUCH worse before it gets better.

Especially since, as I don't think anyone's pointed out yet, this company is in the business of designing health care plans for other companies.
posted by occhiblu at 10:32 AM on January 26, 2005


i get the distinct feeling that the hard-line business libertarians couldn't exist without one of two things:

1) themselves holding all the money & power, and thus wanting the right to do whatever they want for purely selfish reasons. then covering for it with business libertarian rhetoric.

2) living in a world where labor reform has already happened, and being blind to why it came about in the first place.

now, i used to lean libertarian. and i'm still strongly in favor of -personal- liberties. i just don't think businesses should be treated as people. corporations wield more power than any person, and often times have control over government as well.

it's the "you don't have to work there" concept that really gets me. sure, if it's just one company. but what about when every company thinks it's a good idea. where do you have to turn? nowhere. and not everyone has the resources to up and leave. and there might not be anywhere to go, anyway...

this isn't about protecting white-collar workers that might have some sort of options. this is about protecting all of those people that are effectively serfs. that class of people will always exist - people whose skill set is fundamentally not special and are easily replaceable. but they're still people, goddammit, and they should get to live life as they see fit just like people that wield a little more economic power.
posted by flaterik at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2005


"Then people need to work socially on getting people to quit."

While I think this is entirely correct, and I think a lot of things would work out better if they were addressed socially rather than legally...

"Treat smokers like you would treat someone who strolled in off the street with dog shit smeared on his forehead. ...reject them socially. Turn your back on them. Make them feel like the opposite of cool. Make every party a no-smoking party and do not invite smokers who will keep nipping outside to have one."

Alright, so the idea here is that when non-smokers act like assholes to the smokers, the smokers will start to respect them? Instead of making me want to quit smoking, this would make me think "Who are these people that they think it's OK to treat me like shit just because I'm doing something that they disagree with...damn, I need a cigarette, 15 fewer minutes on this hateful, disgusting world seems like a blessing". I'm receptive to social pressure, but I generally avoid listening to people that treat me like I have shit on my face when I'm just trying to live my own fucking life and making an attempt to respect the desires of others.
posted by nTeleKy at 12:23 PM on January 26, 2005



'That's how many people die from smoking. More than a thousand per day, just in the U.S.A."
Could you list their names today, just one. Yes, Johnny Carson just died, but who today? Out of a thousand, seems one would be note able enough to make the news everyday.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2005


A lot of interesting things were brought up long after I left the discussion, it's good to see many people were capable of approaching the discussion in a civil manner.
There were a couple of snarky comments, but I suppose that's to be expected. The bit about me being a Rand fan was below the belt though.
Anyhow, I am not set in my ways on this issue. I would not have tried to have a discussion about it if I were not open to the possibility that I'm missing something or otherwise incorrect. I am going to mull over the bits about history, localized legal enforcements (governing) as contract rather than "government" (labels are a b*tch), and more importantly the issue of corporation as person.
My thanks to those who gave me things to think about, and a sharp "pffft!" to those whose sole contribution was mockery.
posted by nightchrome at 6:56 PM on January 26, 2005


CNN: "CHICAGO (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."

Fat folk, beware.
posted by pracowity at 12:48 AM on January 27, 2005


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

Like more money. Certainly insurers aren't to blame. Not the whole profitization of healthcare. That stuff is good for the economy so just shut up and pay. Instead force individuals to change. Preach to them. Act sanctimonious and self-righteous. If all that fails, fire them. Remember principles are more important that people. People come and go, principles are forever.

Thanks for the update, pracowity.
posted by effwerd at 6:17 AM on January 27, 2005


From the article, 20 smokers quit at the company. We can at least agree that that's a Good Thing, no?
posted by adampsyche at 6:36 AM on January 27, 2005


By the way, San Francisco has just passed a measure making it illegal to smoke in SF parks and arenas save golf courses.

"People are under the misconception that if they are outside, they are not being exposed," Dr. Mitch Katz said. "If you can smell the smoke, your body is inhaling the toxic chemicals in the smoke."

What gives a smoker the right to pollute my lungs with his habit? Inside or out?
posted by fenriq at 8:10 AM on January 27, 2005


What sort of dangerous substances do cars put out?
posted by pracowity at 8:38 AM on January 27, 2005


Meh. I loathe cigarette smoke, fenriq, and I live in a province where indoor smoking is disallowed in almost all venues, and I don't have smoking friends, and all that jazz... but even I wouldn't go so far as to support an outdoor smoking ban.

Sure, I wish the bastards would drop dead in front of me when they light up in my "space," but it's outdoors. Same place I end up smelling dogshit, nasty exhaust fumes, and occasionally the gagarific sewer plant emissions.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:57 AM on January 27, 2005


LA Times on Yahoo! News:
Federal and state laws bar employers from turning down applicants or firing workers based on race, religion or gender. Some states have enacted laws offering similar protections for smokers. But experts say workers in nearly half the states, including California, have few legal options if employers decide to prohibit them from smoking outside the workplace.
posted by pracowity at 8:35 AM on January 28, 2005


They should fire all the fatasses and speeders too.
posted by nanojath at 7:49 PM on February 24, 2005


Big into resurrecting ancient threads, aintcha, nanojath? This is the dozenth I've seen with a one-liner from you, after the thread had been ignored for nearly a month.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2005


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