Fired For Smoking

Via link from Drudge Report:

Westgate Resorts, the largest private employer in Central Florida, has banned smoking and won’t budge from a policy of not hiring smokers and firing employees who do smoke. . .

“If you are too stupid to understand that smoking is going to kill you, then we are going to tell you that if you want to work for our company, you will not smoke,” Seigel said.

Ahhh, the beauty of “employment at will.”  Now you can be fired for doing something legal on your own time that has no relation to your job at all.  So in that respect, at least, smoking is kinda like being gay. 

*rolls eyes so hard they get stuck*

Money quote:

“So, how far are you going to go with it? Like, you wear pants so we are not going to hire you because you wear pants?”

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2 thoughts on “Fired For Smoking

  1. As a nonsmoker, I abhor smoking. And few if any of us would question employers’ prerogatives to regulate the conduct of employees while on duty and/or on employer premises, but this is entirely different.

    Just who does Westgate Resorts president and CEO David Siegel think he is? Is Westgate Resorts in America?

    As with government, once private employers are allowed to dictate any one aspect of one’s private life, where does it stop?

    As Alexander Hamilton wrote over 200 years ago, the power over a person’s subsistence is a power over that person’s will.

    Following Siegel’s and his company’s apparent “reasoning,” why not require employees and job applicants to submit to employer monitoring–don’t laugh; the technology for this is already widely available!–of whatever they, even (indeed, especially) on their own time and off employer premises, read, watch, or listen to; who they associate with and what kinds of organizations they participate in; what Web sites they visit and what they send or receive online; and the like?

    We can’t have employees who dare to write or read online or other letters like this one or otherwise explore, much less spread, ideas about “controversial matters” that the employer might not like, such as notions about fairer tax policies and a stronger “social safety net,” or–horror of horrors–about employees and job applicants actually having (gasp!) rights and about even daring to regulate business to stop privacy abuses, pay inequities, the destruction of health-care, pension, and other benefits, or the like, now, can we? Gotta protect that almighty bottom line and the freedom to select our employees and run our business as we see fit!

    Such employers seem to have a pathological “need” to make sure that only the “right” types of people are hired, that employees have the “right” attitudes and, to use that now-favorite corporate buzz word, are a good “fit” (read: are sufficiently cowed and properly docile to accept existing abuses and any possible future ones the employer might decide to inflict).

    In general, our activities outside of working hours and off employers’ premises are none of an employer’s business unless they pose an actual and substantial conflict of interest or otherwise materially and substantially impair one’s ability to do one’s job.

    As National Workrights Institute legal director Jeremy Gruber has noted, employers that delve into our lives outside of work “are making decisions . . . wholly unrelated to the employment relationship. . . . It has huge consequences for freedom in this country, when people are afraid or are changing their behavior because of what a potential future employer might say or do.”

    Many people, especially in today’s job-scarce economy, are now even hesitant to take part in *any* form of political activism–posting online, writing a letter to a newspaper, calling a radio talk show, taking part in a march or a rally–for fear that an employer might somehow frown on such actions. Today, the Internet and like means make it frighteningly easy for employers to snoop into our personal beliefs and activities.

    For example, in a world-publicized 2004 case, Lynne Gobbell, an Alabama factory worker, was fired from her job after she refused to remove a John Kerry bumper sticker backing a presidential candidate–one her company’s owner opposed–from her personal car. In the 1990s, William Niess, a Wisconsin real-estate broker who also happened to be a Democrat, lost his job for refusing his boss’s “request” that he make a donation to another political party.

    Still another case is my own. In 2002, during a long job hunt after a mid-2001 layoff, I was denied a plum job as an editor with a nonprofit educational association in part because of what the “responsible” employer, when I challenged its vague (and contradiction-ridden) claim of things being simply a matter of “subtle factors” involving “fit”–meanwhile, I suspected and alleged sex discrimination (the editorial department involved was all-female and, as far as I have been able to tell, has stayed so, even after advertising at least two or three new openings for editors)–called, in terms right out of the era of Joseph R. McCarthy, my “record of being involved in controversial matters,” namely, women’s issues (even citing an incident of my involvement from some 20 years before!) and foster-care and adoption reform–certainly never brought up in any interview or correspondence, but found after the employer decided to do an Internet search.

    This sleazy practice must be stopped through legislation like California’s, which specifically forbids employers from dictating or attempting to dictate employees’ political activity. Better yet, every state and Congress should adopt legislation, as a few states (including California, Colorado, and North Dakota) have, generally protecting the right of employees and job applicants to engage in any lawful off-hours, off-premises activities they choose without fear of employment discrimination.

    It is not so much about that oh-so-sacred bottom line as it is about power and control.

    It is time to reclaim your and our rights–before they are lost forever, before we are all forced to live at the mercy of out-of-control employers like Siegel in a global Stepford, a massive, high-tech “company town” that controls not only our work tasks but our other actions, our minds, and our souls “24/7.”

    As someone else asked, would Siegel and his company reject money if the investors who offered it were smokers? If he next decides not to hire or retain overweight people (apparently lawful in most states), will such a diktat apply to him as well?

    I, for one, will do all I can to avoid purchasing his products and services, and I also will do all I lawfully can to make Siegel’s arrogance and stupidity known to others–and urge others to take his actions into account when themselves deciding whose products and services to buy and use.

    Do the same. Get at least 10 other folks you know to do likewise–and tell Siegel and his corporate fiefdom so.

    Scott Enk
    Wisconsin
    (where state law generally bans employment discrimination on account of use or nonuse of lawful products during nonworking hours and off employer premises!)

  2. As with government, once private employers are allowed to dictate any one aspect of one’s private life, where does it stop?

    You need to stop right there. There is a huge difference between government dictating personal decisions and a private business doing the same. The difference is choice. When a business dictates what it will or will not tolerate, the individual can either conform or find another employer. When government decides what is or isn’t good for you (like the recently passed indoor smoking ban here in Illinois), the choice of individuals and businesses is completely taken away. You can’t selectively reject government mandates.

    And this:

    Many people, especially in today’s job-scarce economy, are now even hesitant to take part in *any* form of political activism–posting online, writing a letter to a newspaper, calling a radio talk show, taking part in a march or a rally–for fear that an employer might somehow frown on such actions. Today, the Internet and like means make it frighteningly easy for employers to snoop into our personal beliefs and activities

    First of all, with the US economy at nearly full employment, I don’t know how you can say, with a straight face, that we have a “job-scarce” economy. Secondly, your fears border on the paranoid. If, as you say, “many people” are afraid of expressing their political opinions, how can you explain the explosive growth of people expressing opinions of all sorts through blogging?. Do you fear losing your job because of the comment you left?

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