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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Monday, January 31, 2005
You Can Smoke Or Work, But Not Both
Posted 7:18 AM by Brian D.
Weyco Inc. drew national attention last week when the Okemos, MI. based medical benefits administrator terminated four employees after they refused to submit to a smoking breath test in light of the company's new policy that bans tobacco use during work and even when they are off the clock and work-site. Such increasingly common workplace polices are raising the issue of what other personal behaviors employers may seek to limit, even outside the workplace.

"We are saying people can smoke if they choose to smoke. That's their choice," said Gary Climes, Weyco's chief financial officer. "But they just can't work for us."

The no-smoking policy is part of the company's overall goal for healthy lifestyles, as Weyco employs a full-time health expert to consult workers on diet and nutrition, he said.


The policy is praised by non-smoking advocates, while smokers ponder how else their rights will be restricted, and "others questioned what group will be the next target."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has decided not to challenge the move by Weyco, a medical benefits administrator, because there is no state law prohibiting employers from controlling behavior outside the workplace, said ACLU spokeswoman Wendy Wagenheim. "At least two dozen other states prevent lifestyle discrimination, and that's possible in Michigan as well if people are concerned about their privacy, as well they should be," she said. "To think a company is trying to control off-site behavior when it doesn't affect their job will really bring people out in real numbers to address what's happening to privacy in this country."

I don't smoke, but either the right to privacy, one of the penumbra of rights found in between the cracks of our Constitution, stands for something or it doesn't. I can understand a desire to prevent illegal behavior such as drug use, but the last time I checked cigarettes were legal and you could smoke them on your property such as your car or home. Usually at least. What's next? Will Weyco hire a private investigator to monitor how often you eat a Hardees Thickburger?

As seen in the
National Jurist
and on
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