Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Weyco Demands Healthy Workers

According to a news report in the Christian Science Monitor, Weyco, a medical benefits firm in Michigan, in the past year fired employees for refusing to quit smoking. Now, the company has taken an even more aggressive approach and is demanding that employees live healthier lifestyles. 

Indeed, Weyco wants to make its employees go under mandated medical tests and physical examinations, and those employee who refuse "will see their monthly health insurance premiums jump by $65. By next year, their annual insurance bills will grow by more than $1,000 if they still fail to follow instructions."  It is not clear from the article whether those who comply with the testing who come back with "bad" results will still have their premiums raised (Wouldn't they have to be?).

I have previously posted about workplace privacy issues, obesity regulation, and other organizations firing workers for smoking, but this is the first time I posted on workers actually being penalized in the form of increased health insurance costs for refusal to take medical examinations.

Three questions to think about in this increasingly important area of the law:

1.     Does the Weyco regime violate the ADA? (see my comments to an earlier post here on this       subject of medical testing under the ADA). I think the take home point is that after one has started employment, such medical testing is permitted as long as it is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Is it here?

2.    Even if the ADA is not violated, are forced medical tests too invasive given the purposes of the program?  I mean aren't we treating unhealthy employees like drug offenders?

3.  And finally, what about workers' privacy rights on and off the job? Is this just the employer saying: "We don't care what you do on your own time, but if what you do impacts our bottom line (through increased health insurance costs), we are going to make you pay for it"?   Finally,  is there  too much stick here and not enough carrot in this approach?

Of course, all comments and thoughts are welcome.


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