What Would You Do?
American Express Headquarters, New York, NY
Headquarters, New York, New York.1 With medical costs rising 10 to 15 percent per year, one of the members of your Board of Directors mentioned that some companies are now refusing to hire smokers and that the board should discuss this option at the next month’s meeting. Nationwide, about 6,000 companies refuse to hire smokers. Weyco, an employee benefits company in Okemos, Michigan, requires all applicants to take a nicotine test. Weyco’s CFO says, “We’re not saying people can’t smoke. We’re just saying they can’t smoke and work here. As an employee-benefits company, we need to take a leadership role in helping people understand the cost impact of smoking.” The Cleveland Clinic, one of the top hospitals in the United States, doesn’t hire smokers. Paul Terpeluk, the director of corporate and employee health, says that all applicants are tested for nicotine and that 250 people have lost job opportunities because they smoke. The Massachusetts Hospital Association also refuses to hire smokers. The company’s CEO says, “Smoking is a personal choice, and as an employer I have a personal choice within the law about who we hire and who we don’t.” As indicated by your board member, costs are driving the trend not to hire smokers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a smoker costs about $4,000 more a year to employ because of increased health-care costs and lost productivity. Breaking that down, a smoker will have 50 percent higher absenteeism, and, when present, will work 39 fewer minutes per day because of smoke breaks, which leads to 1,817 lost hours of annual productivity. A smoker will have higher accident rates, cause $1,000 a year in property damage (from cigarette burns and smoke damage), and will cost up to $5,000 more a year for annual insurance premiums. John Banzhaf, executive director of an antismoking group in Washington, and a law professor at George...
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