Is it Your Employer’s Business if You Do?

smokerRecently, Wal-Mart got some heat for an internal memo proposing ways to save health care costs by attracting a “healthier, more productive workforce.” But Wal-Mart’s proposed strategy is only the tip of the iceberg, as more and more companies are involving themselves in their employee’s personal health and lifestyle choices. And even moreso in their politics and first amendment rights.

Weyco, an insurance company, has even gone so far as to ban its employees from smoking (at home or at work), firing those who couldn’t kick the butt. And Weyco owner Howard Weyers wants to go even further — firing employees whose spouses smoke (and theoretically anyone they associate with).

This is one of the grey areas of libertarian ideology for some that tends to generate a lot of flack. Because we agree that the companies should be able to hire and fire employees based on whatever criteria they choose, most people (read: Democrats) tend to dismiss us as in favor of big business. Some democrat libertarians will disagree with me, saying that it’s none of an employer’s business what they do at home. Unfortunately, this argument holds no water when it comes to covering that same behavior with health insurance. One person’s hobby of being shot out of cannons on the weekend is suddenly a huge liability for everyone.

The reality is a little more pragmatic. If you don’t agree with how these companies treat their employees, it’s up to you to vote with your dollars. If you continue to buy Weyco Insurance, knowing that the company policy is to openly discriminate against them — you’d be endorsing their behavior, plain and simple.

Common sense says that’s the ideal way to deal with companies that bully their employees.

8 Comments
  1. This is one of the grey areas of libertarian ideology for some that tends to generate a lot of flack.

    There’s only “flack” because there’s nothing truly grey about the issue — people just want to pretend there is.

  2. If they want to work there, they should have to abide by their rules. There is no reason they can’t do this stuff at home, as long as they don’t get caught though. You have the right to hire (and fire) anyone you want on under circumstances.

  3. One of the things mentioned in that memo was adding physical activity to jobs that currently don’t require it. As long as this isn’t a requirement (you don’t have to collect carts in the parking lot if you’re in a wheel chair), I see no problem (liberty-wise or PR-wise).

    Wal-Mart should allow every employee to, after their first day on the job, enroll in a high-deductible, catastrophic plan. Wal-Mart should then take any money that’s left over from eliminating the more comprehensive plans they have now for more veteran employees and use that money to increase the salaries of all employees, especially those making the least. Finally, Wal-Mart should use their largesse to work with hospitals and doctors to ensure that Wal-Mart employees (and hopefully anybody else) that pay for routine services (checkups, X-rays, prescription trips, etc.) with cash gets a discounted rate than what they would pay with traditional “insurance.”

  4. hahahaha! Good luck… Wal-Mart doesn’t give 2 shits for their employees. Employee satisfaction and morale is not nearly as important as most companies pretend.

    The look at the bottom line…. they look at their stocks…. they look for at least a slow steady climb. Nothing more.

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