SOME COMPANIES ARE FIRING SMOKERS
Sometimes you hear something that just makes you stand up and shout out loud, "What the f...?" Last night presented exactly just such an occasion as my wife and I were busy doing some remodel work in our master bedroom, and we happened to be listening to the John Tesh show on the radio—for the record, my wife chose the station. In the segment Tesh cited a news story he had read that said that some companies were choosing not to hire smokers, and some even engage in testing employees for the presence of nicotine. If you get caught with nicotine in your system, you could be fired from your job. According to a few of the studies Tesh mentioned, companies employing such policies were concerned over the costs associated with having smokers on their payroll. Medical costs notwithstanding, companies also cited studies that showed smokers were more likely to take days off, and more likely to require more time off overall. There were even studies that linked smokers to lower rates of productivity, and one estimation put the cost to companies of employing smokers at around $100 billion a year.
Granted, no one is going to argue the fact that smoking is hazardous to one's health. And certainly it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that passive smoke poses serious health risks as well. It's perfectly reasonable for a company to have policies in place that seek to minimize the potential risks associated with smoking to employees who do not smoke. But when a company policy begins to extend outside the workplace, and becomes involved in an employee's personal life, which has been the case in this example, I take exception to that. Even as a non-smoker. I think any reasonable person would and should take exception to a policy like that. Isn't it bad enough when our government seeks to play the role of big brother? Now companies want to control our lives too?
We all work hard at our jobs. It's tough to go into a job site day in and day out and carry out what are often times menial, and very boring tasks—if you are not in that category I applaud you. We're not at work because we necessarily want to be there. Not to say work is not satisfying on some or another level, but let's be honest here. I think most of us could agree that if we won the lottery tomorrow, it would mark the beginning of retirement. We're at work because we want things, and because we need things. We work so that when we are at home spending time with our families and friends we can have personal enjoyment. Perhaps we like to enjoy a cocktail. Maybe we decide on a Friday night we'd enjoy loading up our bellies with fried fish. Perhaps we go bowling or have a game of tennis.
Smoking is hazardous. No one denies that. But so are many of the things we do outside of work. All of those activities have the potential to pose risks to productivity and down time just as smoking does. So the question becomes, where then do you draw the line? Do you stop at smoking, or do you force employees to improve their diets as well? Take away those unhealthy Friday night fish fries because you could get fat, or you could get heart disease. Do you monitor and test employee's cholesterol levels? Do you send private investigators out to police the local favorite Friday night fish fry spots in town? And what about sports? What if an employee engages in sports on the weekends? Do you put a policy into effect that employees cannot engage in sports because it may lead to a broken arm, or a sprained ankle? Surely all of these activities will cost companies in lost time and lost productivity. Hell, why not even go as far as to cancel weekends, because we all know companies worst productivity is on Mondays and Fridays.
Of course it's ridiculous.
Besides the fact that these companies are citing such waste and cost due to smokers, we all know who they are referring to. They're not talking about their CEOs or other top executives. They're talking about the little people. The worker bees. The bottom half of the totem pole. You can't tell me for one second that a single one of these companies who would put such ridiculous policies on the books would ever think to include the upper echelon in them. Like liberal politicians, they're so much smarter than we are. They know what's best for us. Do you think these guys would give up their fine cigars, for example?
Companies need to pay close attention to their bottom lines. Certainly I appreciate that. I'm a stockholder in several companies myself, and of course I want the best return on my investment I can possibly get. And I think I've made it clear I agree that many employee's habits can and do have an impact on the bottom line overall. They cost money. That's inarguable. Still, if you ask me, it's not mine nor the company's business what an employee chooses to do after working hours unless it's breaking the law, even if it has the potential to cost the company a few bucks one way or the other.
It's just too much of a slippery slope for my comfort. In fact, it should be a very scary thing for anyone. Again, where do you draw the line? What other personal freedoms might you have to give up just to keep a job?
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