Employees who smoke are currently unpopular with the nation’s employers. But they are not alone. The Philadelphia e-zine, Philly Burbs, writes that there are five other “conditions” that employers will avoid in a potential job candidate. You can decide for yourself whether there is any truth in this claim.
The article quotes the president of an L.A.-based wellness company who says that there are five medical conditions in particular that no employer wants to see. The five he cites include: obesity, depression, hypertension, high cholesterol and musculoskeletal disorders such as low back pain.
The article goes on to say:
“Obesity is quickly replacing smoking as the number one expensive liability for a potential employer,” says Thomas B. Gilliam, president, Industrial Physical Capability Services (IPCS), Inc., Hudson, Ohio. He says that IPCS research indicates that costs related to obese employees have grown from 29 percent of the new hire pool in 2001 to 39 percent in 2007. “The obese worker will cost a company about $2,000 more per year in added health care claims and another $500 per year in lost productivity.”
I’ve posted before about the [very real] possibility that employers will soon target obese employees as the workplace becomes ever more focused on “wellness.” A combination of factors makes this result likely.
Primarily, he number of smokers will continue to decline. Smokers receive harsh treatment and ostracism from society in large and, certainly, from mainstream corporate America. In addition to the social pressures to abandon tobacco use, the country’s employers have proclaimed smoking as an enemy to business–both from a productivity and expense perspective.
For nearly 10 years, employers increasingly have used employees’ tobacco use as a hiring qualification (“We don’t hire smokers”) and as a basis for higher health insurance premiums. But eliminating smokers from the workplace will not create the ideal productive environment nor will it prevent the cost of health insurance from continuing to increase. So what, then? It seems logical that, once the “problem” (smoking) is eliminated, but the effects of the problem remain (productivity and high insurance costs), employers will simply elect a new “problem” to target.
Obesity as a “problem” is not a far-flung idea. Already we have seen fast-food chains change their offering to include healthier options, such as salads and fruit. Even the addition of wellness programs promotes the idea of weight loss and a healthy body size.
Further support of this argument can be seen in the recent announcement of American Airlines that it will charge passengers $15 for the 1st checked bag and additional, higher premiums for the 2nd, and 3d bags. The airline has defended this tremendously unpopular idea by citing the high cost of fuel. Luggage weighs more. The heavier the plane, the more fuel that is required to operate it. Does it seem like a natural extension of this proposition that passengers will be charged extra if they “bring” extra weight on board, thereby causing the plane to use more fuel?
Of course, you may think this is absurd. And, I admit, so did I. But as outrageous as the thought may be, the local news today featured an “expert” on the airline industry who said, affirmatively and convincingly, that he believed that the next step would be to charge travelers for “extra weight” the next time they fly the friendly skies.