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Should employers be able to factor in health concerns?


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#1 Mr. Scot

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:28 PM

Per a story on WBTV, some employers are beginning to take smoking bans a step further, now factoring in smoker/non-smoker status into their hiring practices.

The logic is that someone who smokes could cause benefit costs to rise due to the effects of their own smoking and that of "second hand smoke" on other employees (this despite some places having outright banned smoking on their premises).

Speculation is that if this stands, employers could also begin factoring in other lifestyle-based risk factors (obesity, for example) into hiring decisions.

All this comes about while at the same time, a segment of the political spectrum is telling insurance companies they should not consider "pre-existing conditions" when determining whether or not to offer coverage, including employer based benefit packages. Likewise, there are any number of things that employers are not allowed to factor into hiring because they would be considered discrimination.

So what about this? Is this discrimination, or should employers be allowed to take health and lifestyle factors and resultant costs into whether or not they hire someone?

#2 stirs

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:37 PM

Well, as someone who is blessed with good health and exercises, eats correctly, I am always frustrated when our company comes out year after year and says the insurance premiums are going up.

This is due to the overweight, smoking, and generally sedentary employee group we work with. I understand the dilemma, but am tired of my premiums going up because of bad choices others make. Each year, there are heart attacks, strokes and diabetes issues that for the most part could be avoided. It is like I am also paying (literally) for their choices.

#3 dimbee

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:45 PM

I have no problem with companies not hiring someone because they smoke. It never fails that I have to walk in through the door where the smokers have congregated and as such walk through their cloud of nastiness.

Being a former smoker, I think, makes it worse

#4 Davidson Deac II

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:54 PM

Mixed feelings about it, but I think that employers should probably not be able to factor lifestyle or habits in. Primarily because it would be hard to know where they should stop. Smokers are easy targets, but what if they start looking at other factors such as sexual lifestyle? Could be opening pandora's box so to speak.

#5 Zod

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:55 PM

Not sure it is discrimination if it is a behavioral choice they are deciding does not fit with their business. Same with obesity, it's a choice.

Unlike gender, race, sexual orientation, disabilities, which are all inherent.

I'd have to hear more on both sides of the issue before I could make an informed opinion.

#6 CarolinaAllDay

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:57 PM

Im a smoker and i neglectfully agree.
Food industry especially should not hire smokers

#7 Catalyst

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:05 PM

I don't know that they should be banning smokers/overweight people from working for them, but maybe work out a system where those folks pay more out of their own pocket for any health care benefits they may receive.

#8 MCP

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:16 PM

Of course they should be able to, if it is their business, but that won't be a very popular stance.

Then again, it really doesn't matter, if you don't want to hire someone, you can always find a reason, and if you do hire someone you didn't really want, then you are too stupid to be running a company anyway.

#9 Davidson Deac II

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:40 PM

I don't know that they should be banning smokers/overweight people from working for them, but maybe work out a system where those folks pay more out of their own pocket for any health care benefits they may receive.


I agree sort of, but what if the smoker says, well this person is using Coke on weekends, or another is having unprotected sex with multiple partners etc.... Smoking and Obesity are not the only risky behaviors.

#10 Zod

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:48 PM

I agree sort of, but what if the smoker says, well this person is using Coke on weekends, or another is having unprotected sex with multiple partners etc.... Smoking and Obesity are not the only risky behaviors.


People are fired every day from random drug test results.

#11 Davidson Deac II

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:14 PM

People are fired every day from random drug test results.

I wouldn't know, the company I work for never drug test anyone that I know of. But leave out the drugs then, what if someone post on their facebook that they are having unprotected anal sex and their employer finds out about it and deems them a health risk and fires them. Or drinks alcohol from the time they get home until the time they go to bed?

Or what if the employee is only slightly obese, has a moderately healthy diet, but has a family history of cancer. Does the employer get the ok to can someone that is borderline healthy because of a potential risk down the road (even if they don't actually admit its because of the potential down the road risk). Is it a judgement call on the part of the employer, or do they use some type of specific measurement such as Body mass index (and I know from my time in the military that those can be flawed).


Its a very gray area here, and one that could easily backfire.

#12 Panthro

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:19 PM

I think they should make less than a healthy less costly employee. As their health improves and their costs go down they should have those cost savings passed on to them as salary increases

#13 g5jamz

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:23 PM

Smokers and fat people (without provable glandular issues) should be charged higher group insurance rates.

You can't fault people for hereditary issues they have.

If you're a small company and provide health insurance for your employees, wouldn't you/shouldn't you consider NOT hiring a fat smoker because of the impact on the benefit you provide?

#14 SuperLego5

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:33 PM

Personally I think it is discrimination - thanks to some fortunate genetics I've got a good metabolism so can pretty much eat what I want and my weight doesn't fluctuate. Compare that to somebody that can only stay at a reasonable weight through consistent, vigorous exercise. I shouldn't be more employable thanks to a set of genes I was lucky enough to have passed onto me by my parents.

#15 g5jamz

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:39 PM

No one would be denied coverage...just have to pay more.


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