Michigan employer fires four workers for smoking

Employees refused to take a test to determine whether they smoked cigarettes, more firms refusing to hire workers who smoke

A Michigan health-care company has fired four employees after they refused to take a test to determine whether they smoke cigarettes.

According to the Associated Press, Weyco Inc., a benefits administrator based in Okemos, Mich., adopted a policy at the beginning of this year that it would fire employees who smoked, even if the smoking was done after business hours or at home.

“I don’t want to pay for the results of smoking,” said company founder Howard Weyers, who said the policy was designed to protect the company from increased health-care costs.

Gary Climes, the company’s chief financial officer, told the AP that about 20 of the company’s 200 employees were smokers before the policy was announced. About 14 quit before the policy went into effect with the help of the company, something Climes called “absolutely a victory.’

Weyco isn’t the only Michigan employer cracking down on smokers. According to WOOD television in Grand Rapids, Mich., Kalamazoo Valley Community College will no longer hire individuals into full-time positions who use tobacco products.

Full-time staff already on the payroll are not affected by the new policy, but the college will be offering them smoking cessation programs. The ban will not apply to part-time employees not covered by benefits, but they will have to kick the habit before moving to a full-time position.

Sandy Bohnet, the college’s vice-president of HR, said costs were the main reason for implementing the new policy. The college has a self-insured health plan, and it believes it can bring costs down by not hiring smokers, possibly by as much as 10 per cent.

She also pointed to a study by the Centers for Disease Control that shows smokers use more sick time, aren’t as happy and don’t get as much work done as non-smokers.

Bill Fallon, a labour law attorney, told WOOD there isn’t much smokers can do about it because there is nothing under Michigan law, or federal law, that protects people who smoke.

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