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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Smoking and Your Job

A reader sent me a link to this article about a Florida company which has banned all employees from smoking--even at home, and asked for my thoughts.

I don't know why this reader thought I'd have an opinion on this, as I seriously lack opinions.

Ha, ha, sorry about that. Here's my opinion. I think Franklin D. Roosevelt was a terrible president and that the New Deal did more to damage the United States than almost any other policy. (What policy would fall into the "almost" category, I don't know off the top of my head, but I'm leaving it open in case I remember something.)

I am not some rambling mad woman (well, yes, yes, I am, but not on this topic. Do you realize how many days until Christmas and that payroll wants any changes for the January 15th pay by this Thursday? Are they mad?), this actually relates.

New Deal legislation prevented companies from paying market rates for jobs. This was in the hopes that companies would hire more people. What happened is that companies began offering non-cash benefits, such as health insurance, to attract employees.

The government encouraged this by giving company offered health insurance tax breaks, not offered to individuals. As a result, more companies began offering health insurance.

Good, right? I don't think so. This Florida company shows the end result of that. In order to get good employees you have to offer good health benefits. In order to offer health benefits you need to be able to pay for them. If your employees are sick or have bad habits (such as smoking, drinking or eating entire cartons of Ben and Jerry's ice cream--one carton does not equal one serving, by the way) then your health insurance costs go up.

Solution? Have healthier employees. How to do this? Well, prohibiting smoking sounds like a pretty easy way to do so.

Don't like it? Get a different job. Still don't like it? Complain to FDR.

Boy, I'm all political today. Vote Herbert Hoover!


Dean Dad said...

Uh, no.

The employer-based benefits boondoggle was a work-around to get around the wage-price freezes during WWII. It came after the New Deal, and was for a different reason.

Same President, yes, but different time and different reason. (That President lasted quite a while.)

Totally agree, though, that it's a stupid system. If only (single payer) there were an alternative (single payer) that had a proven track record of success (single payer).


Mark said...

Another Florida company, Kirchman Corp. (since sold), did this for years. If you had smoked in the last year, they wouldn't hire you.

I'm sure there are companies that won't hire you if you drink. Churches can choose not hire you if you don't attend there.

Is it discrimination? Sure, all hiring is discrimination if you don't hire everyone who applies. But it's not illegal discrimination.

Anonymous said...

We want "healthy" employees to keep our medical insurance costs down. So quit smoking or work elsewhere.

Would it be too much to ask that you PROVE smoking is unhealthy? Well, yes it is. Boob tube BS is proof enough.

Anybody with such an attitude should be jailed for fraud, but most people LOVE a fraud.

Evil HR Lady said...

Dean Dad,

It was implemented during WWII, but it was a direct result of the interventionist policies of the New Deal.

Dyslexic HR Guy said...

Silly slippery slope. Do you terminate or not hire the obese; we would have a 60% unemployment rate not to mention some ADA issues. For their next policy maybe they could institute a policy against promiscuous behavior. Maybe they could have current employees and applicants fill out a detailed list describing their diets… So sorry we can’t offer you the job, that diet beverage you seem to enjoy has carcinogenic properties. You ski? Do you know what a broken leg could due to our insurance premiums?

Dean Dad said...

If cigarette smoking is an addiction, and addiction is a disease, could smokers claim ADA discrimination?

Job Chick said...

I think the obvious answer here is to lie. Isn't that first defense of any employee anyway?

HR Wench said...

Job Chick - You can lie. But any company serious enough about having no smokers on their payroll is going to have testing protocols I think. Nicotine shows up in your blood and you are outta there I guess.

Evil and Dean - thanks for the history lesson! Interesting stuff.

I guess I should stop showing up to interviews with a lit cigarette in my hand.

Dyslexic HR Guy said...

Dean Dad: If they came forward themselves i.e. not caught with a smoking in the boys room, they could probably make an argument, if they were entered a smoking cessation program.

Evil HR Lady said...

HR Wench,

I have this wonderful picture of you in my head, showing up for an interview in a suit and high heels and a cigarette. Ha!

Dean Dad,

I imagine that soon enough, it will be classified under ADA.

William the Coroner said...

Nicotine doesn't show up, but the metabolite, conitine, does. And that's what's tested for.

Serious, NIDA-level protocols are involved with testing folks for drugs in the workplace where it really counts, like the FAA and FRA in cases. Little things like monitored rest rooms, blue dye in the toilet water, no hot water, control of faucets--OY.

William the Coroner said...

OH, and Dean Dad? I've worked in a single-payer government run health service (the VA). There's a reason that folks who have ANY other option don't use that system.

Mariaelena said...

william the coroner - not all single-payer government run health services are the same. If any health care systems were run, regulated and funded like the VA it would be in big trouble. The funding of the VA by congress treats it the entity like an after-thought where whoever does the calculations severely under-projects casualty rates and service needs (and then tacks on absurd regulations about what should and should not be covered for soldiers [because they're going to get treatment somewhere else I guess?]). You can contrast this with EU or Canadian government run systems where, despite the fact that there is dissatisfaction with the system, few would opt for the U.S. health care system structure. Gah, even Mexico has publicly funded health care (a two tier system of public and private hospitals in which many users opt for a combo), which is subsidized by government coverage of medical school tuition (which makes going to the doctor significantly less expensive even if your paying for it out of pocket).

The interesting thing about Mexico is that the public hospitals are funded by payroll taxes and thus you have to be paying in to use them.

JKB said...

"Don't like it? Get a different job. Still don't like it? Complain to FDR."

Well, FDR also gave us Social Security and such things as unemployment insurance. If lots of employers go this way, these fat smokers won't be able to get any job and will go on the dole in a SSI disability. So instead of making money and paying taxes, these people will be getting a government check, government medical care and not even have to file a 1040. So the unhealthy habit people get an easy life while the healthy habit types dash from the jog and morning bran muffin to a piled up desk where they put in extra hours to pay the extra taxes only to find after 20 year or so, the stress has widened their girth and they could really use a cigarette. A cigarette they can now have since they just got canned for having high cholesterol and are off on disability.

HR Wench said...

We have a Coroner in the house? Man, I love this blog!

William the Coroner said...

Hr wench

Most people don't want to see me.

This may go a long way to explain why I'm single...

GeekChic said...

Ugh - I don't like smokers but this company's attitude (and Evil's support of it) are exactly why I left the U.S. and returned to Canada. My current employer hired me knowing I have cancer (and no I didn't "deserve it" or "bring it on myself"). I wonder how happy people will be when this attitude reaches its natural conclusion... mandatory genetic testing (I'm sorry, you have the breast cancer gene, you just won't do).

Evil HR Lady said...

William the Coroner--I think that was the best comment I've ever had.

Geekchic--First of all, I didn't say whether I thought the company had a good idea or a bad idea, I just explained how it got there. Second, do you think countries with universal health care are going to be immune from this type of thing?

Sure, businesses won't have reason to discriminate on such things, but New Zealand is already refusing to let people immigrate based on BMI, and the UK is thinking about cutting off health services to overweight people.

Whoever pays gets the power. Personally, I'd rather have power over my own life.

Sharpiefan said...

A great case study to the "you can't work here if you smoke" debate is Scott's Miracle Grow. They implemented a smoke free policy around three years ago and should start getting results on whether the theory even works. They are the pioneers on this issue and the trends will start moving bigger corporations towards a smoke free workforce. My company (fortune 100) recently banned all smoking at employee entrances. I think it was a great move and challeneged us HR folks to make decisions on where to put the smokers. Conventional wisdom told us to ban smoking on the property. I'm sure in 2 - 5 years that will be the next step.

GeekChic said...

Evil - Your flippant reaction to the situation certainly made it sound like you didn't have a problem with it. If you really do, I stand corrected.

And no I don't think that countries with universal health care are immune from this type of inhumanity. My hope is that the head start that the U.S. already has with these types of policies (and their consequences) will shake some sense into people and encourage people up here (or anywhere else, for that matter) not to go down that path.

Evil HR Lady said...


You are right. I don't have a problem with it. Smoking is a choice. Choices have consequences. A good thing to remember is that you get to make whatever choice you want, but you don't get to choose the consequences.

Would I recommend a company take this particular path? Probably not. But, if they wanted to, I see no problem with it.

GeekChic said...


Yes - smoking is a choice that does have consequences. My point is that everyone makes bad choices at some point. I'm not comfortable with a society that is that eager to write someone off.

Also, as I said earlier, this is not going to stop at supposed "bad choices". There has already been an instance in the U.S. where a man did not have his contract renewed because he refused to submit to a genetic test that his employer thought he needed (fortunately he found another job). How would you feel if your boss came up to you and said, "You know Evil, you're getting older and you work with critical HR data so we want to ensure that your faculties are all in order. Please submit to this genetic test for early-onset Alzheimer's to continue your employment."?

Anyway, I've said enough (too much probably). And I'm probably not going to convince anyone of anything, unfortunately.

HR Wench said...

My head just asploded.

That is all.