Weyco may be one of the only large companies in the country that can boast not only a smoke-free workplace, but a smoke-free workforce. Achieving that status, however, didn't come without a lot of effort—and controversy. Howard Weyers, the founder and CEO of the Michigan-based health-benefits-management company, attracted a lot of media attention—and the ire of workers' advocates—when he let go four employees recently after they refused to stop smoking. Civil-rights activists accused the company of discrimination, arguing that Weyers was punishing workers for engaging in a legal activity on their own time. Weyers claimed that he gave his employees plenty of notice and opportunities and incentives to quit. "I gave them a little over 15 months to decide which is most important: my job or tobacco?" says Weyers. That's a question that more Americans may be asking themselves these days. Most companies already ban tobacco use in the workplace and more than a half dozen states and hundreds of cities have enacted laws to the same effect. Now, citing rising health-insurance costs and concerns about employees' well-being, a growing number of companies are refusing to hire people who smoke, even if they do so on their own time and nowhere near their jobs. An estimated 6,000 employers no longer hire smokers, according to the National Workrights Institute, an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Discuss with your peers how you would react in this type of situation. Should an employer have the right to not hire you solely based on the fact that you are a smoker? Why or why not? After creating your initial post, respond to at least two of your peers and discuss whether you agree or disagree with their viewpoint. Explain and justify your response.
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Should an employer have the right to not hire you solely based on the fact that you are a smoker?
Case Studies: Merck & River Blindness, Off Duty Smoking, Sing's Chinese Restaurant
Case 1: Off-Duty Smoking
1. Was Rob's choice justified? Why or why not?
2. Is it fair for any employer to refuse to hire a smoker? What about an overweight person? (Are there any relevant differences between a smoker and an overweight person?). Be sure to define what you mean by 'fair.'
3. Does the job position being filled - floor manager - make any relevant difference in this case? If not, can you think of a position where smoking would be relevant?
4. Should employers be free not to hire employees whose personal behaviors are considered high risk?
5. Should employers be able to restrict employeer's high-risk behavior? Why or why not?
Case 2: Sing's Chinese Restaurant
1. Is Sing's defense a good one under the law? Why or why not?
2. Is Sing's defense a good one under the standards of morality? Why or why not?
3. Is this a case of preferential hiring? Of "reverse discrimination?"
Case 3: Merck and River Blindness
1. Given the fact that Merck is spending corporate resources to manufacture and distribute Mectizan, is the Merck Mectizan Donation Program morally justifiable? Explain.
2. Would Friedman approve of the Merck Mectizan Donation Program? Explain.
3. Should the fact that Merck's values are clearly stated in corporate publications that are widely available to investors make a difference to someone who accepts Friedman's position? Explain.
4. Should the Merck Mectizan Donation Program serve as a model for other pharmaceutical companies who are in a unique position to facilitate the eradication of other diseases in the developing nations? Explain.