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Way To Go, Weyco?
Weyco, a Michigan company intent on getting rid of employees who smoke, fires four employees for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoke. The company's reasoning for getting rid of the butt-addicted: Smokers' health care costs are higher than non-smokers'. (Along with their absentee rates, I would venture: "Sorry, boss, I'm home having an emphysema attack this morning.") Drug Policy Alliance contends "What you do on your private time is none of your boss' business." Where do you stand?

Posted by aalkon at March 3, 2005 6:55 AM

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Hi Amy -

"What you do on your private time is none of your boss' business."

That's for sure. Where would it end ?!


Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 3, 2005 1:41 AM

Hello Amy,

it has often been claimed that health care costs are higher for smokers, but I think the question is still open to debate: Lung cancer might be expensive to treat, but most victims won't survive their second year. Since we non-smokers live longer, we might be just as expensive because of other expensive illnesses later in life.

Personally, I don't smoke, but I really don't think it's my business if anybody else does, as long as I won't have to inhale.

Just my two cents.

Posted by: Rainer at March 3, 2005 4:05 AM

I wrote about this as well and thought it was a huge violation and load of crock. So will they be getting family histories from employees next? Women with breast cancer in their families are pretty expensive health care wise. How about a low history of high blood pressure and heart disease, another costly condition.

We need to quit allowing the movement of the privacy line. By the time enough people are affected to do something en masse, we will have lost so many rights it will be hard to get them back.

Posted by: Michelle at March 3, 2005 5:10 AM

Actually, another group with a lot of absences and low performance compared to other workers is parents. When I worked at a big company, I really resented being handed the work of people who left at 4pm to pick up their kids, or were absent due to some kid issue, just because I didn't have any. There was no reduction in anyone's pay for doing less work -- would have been unheard of...completely politically incorrect to even suggest such a thing...but they were doing substantially less work, these colleagues.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 3, 2005 7:11 AM

Hi Amy –

>> … parents … left at 4pm to pick up their kids,

>>or were absent due to some kid issue … no reduction

>>in anyone's pay for doing less work -- would have been

>>unheard of...completely politically incorrect to even suggest

>>such a thing...but they were doing substantially less work,

>>these colleagues.

In France this is not really an issue … but you might not be happy about the solution the French have adopted. (smile) Since the end of WWI, French gov'ts have devised a number of measures to increase the birthrate. Among these can be found the "sursalaire familial", aka the "SFT" ("supplémént familial de traitement'). This term can be translated by "extra salary if one has children." There are also "child allowances" (beginning with the second child).

Concretely, what does this mean ? Here's a typical example prevalent in many large French companies - and, generally, in the civil service: Man A has the same qualifications as Man B, is the same age, has the same experience, and does the same job in the same office.

This is how the SFT works: Man A has a nonworking wife (or Woman A has a nonworking husband: I'm just going to keep saying "Man" in this example for simplicity's sake –it'll be easier to follow on screen. No gender disrespect intended or implied (smile)). His salary is 1x. Man B has a nonworking wife and a dependent kid (born in or out of wedlock, natural or adopted, or even as a result of polygamy). Thanks to the kid, Man B will be paid more (1.01x) than Man A. With two kids, even more (1.03x), and, with three kids, quite a bit more (1.08x). That is, eight percent more for the same job, with the same hours and so on. It does matter whether or not the spouse works, of course. If both work, there might be other allowances for day care and childcare and so forth, depending on joint income level. If the couple is unmarried but living together ("concubinage") there might be yet other allowances, since only the salary of the parent who claims the dependent child enters into the calculation. The concubin(e) is not a dependent.

That's not all. Families in France receive the aforementioned "child allowances", too. With these factored in (and they're not based on income or tax bracket or unemployment or need: everyone with dependent kids receives them, regardless, whether both spouses are employed or not), the salaries + allowances situation looks like this: Man A = still 1x; Man B with one child = same 1.01x (no gov't family allowances for one child only, alas - only the "SFT" is paid); Man B with two children = 1.06x (yes, the gov't family allowances and the SFT are the same amount, i.e., 3% each !); Man B with three children = 1.16x. Yup. Sixteen percent more. The gov't family allowance goes up in accordance with the number of children, while the SFT usually ceilings out after five or six kids.

There's another perk, too: a female civil servant, if she has had at least three children, can retire early. How early ? After fifteen years of attendance on the job (time off for paid and unpaid maternity leave is not counted in the fifteen years, of course). Heretofore this had only applied to women … but, last year, because of all the fuss about "la parité entre hommes et femmes" (i.e.; gender equality), the law was extended (after appeal by male civil servants to the European Commission or Court, I forget which) to male civil servants as well. So now a civil servant father of three kids can retire early, too … while the bachelor(ette), or the infertile two-childer, has to slave away 'til the age of sixty.

Note, too, that there is a slew of other gov't allowances available to parents with dependent kids (of course, the single parent with two kids receives the previously-explained family allowances): for example, there is also the "allocation de parent isolé" ("single parent allowance") for divorced or unmarried individuals (overwhelmingly female, since the judges usually award custody to the mother); there are "general education allowances" (if salary is too low – like minimum wage); and there are the "back to school allowances" in September (if salary is too low – like minimum wage); and so on and so forth.

This is where quite a bit of tax money goes. You won't be seeing any so-called "taxpayer revolt" over any of this, either. It's a whole different world, here. (smile)


Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 3, 2005 10:07 AM

I understand that Amy did not want to shoulder coworker parents' loads, and she shouldn't. However, parents shoulder loads she does not (yes, yes, by choice), such as feeding an extra mouth and staying up all night when that mouth vomits. Also, so long as the job is based on merit and committment, Amy gets ahead faster. She may pay for the perk, but she sees that reflected in her check and status. To my mind, it evens out.

Posted by: nancy at March 3, 2005 11:06 AM

It actually didn't even out at the time. I was doing my job and part of my coworker's and it only made my job harder and more time-consuming, not more lucrative. I'm all for people living their choices -- as long as their choices come out of their salary, and aren't simply added to my work load, no charge.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 3, 2005 1:34 PM

Parents who let their work fall on others are being uncool. I have 3 little ones, and I make damn sure I never leave my work for anyone else because of it.

OTH, once I have everything done, I'm not above concocting an excuse to leave early - "hey, kid's sick - gotta go!"., It's one of the few perks to being a parent.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at March 3, 2005 3:02 PM

Amy, remember, you set your own rates.

Posted by: Charlie at March 3, 2005 9:54 PM

You don't set your own rates at all when you're young, you work for a corporation and you need your job during a tight job market. I eventually quit.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 4, 2005 1:14 AM

Amy I would fault your boss/bosses as well as your co-worker for allowing their situation to affect your workload. If your workload increases as a result of someone's actions then you should have been compensated in some manner. The reality of life is that there are a lot of lazy fuckers out there who will use any excuse to avoid work and have no problem with that work landing on someone elses shoulders. I am a parent who is very involved in my childs life and I take time as necessary to ensure that I am always there for the important moments of her life.

Having said that I also take my obligations at work very seriously and often work more hours than required. Its a trade off that affords me the flexibility to be both a good parent and a reliable coworker.

At one time I was an employee that did not have children and would sometimes get a little chagrined at the preferential treatment parents received at work, but then I had a situation arise that required my boss to show some flexibility towards my schedule which he did in a supportive manner.

I don't think you can paint all parents with the same brush. Also, if you are looking for inconsistencies in the workplace you can find them all over the place. Smokers are less productive because they are always sneaking off to have a smoke; women are tiptoed around lest they scream sexual harrassment; minorities are given more slack lest they scream discrimination. These are arguments that a number of people can and do make, but in the end that's life. Most people have no problem working whatever angle they can to getaway with whatever they can. I am glad I don't work with 'most people'.

The responsibility for a fair productive work environment falls more on the employer than the employee. It shouldn't but the reality is that it does.

Sorry if I rambled a bit there!

Posted by: Kevin at March 4, 2005 9:23 AM

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