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Need Not Apply Here
OKEMOS, Mich., Jan. 28, 2005
At one Michigan company, where there is smoke, you're fired.
"If you test positive for tobacco, you lose your employment here," says Howard Weyer of his health care company Weyco.
As CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports, he not only forbids employees from smoking on the job, he'll fire them if they smoke ever.
His employees are forbidden from smoking at home or on vacation. They can't even light up a cigar when they have a baby.
"If you test positive you got a problem," he says.
Weyer says the drastic action was needed because increasing health care costs threaten to choke his business. A smoker, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will cost a company almost $3,400 more in loss productivity and health care costs every year.
"We have to get our staff healthier," says Weyer. "If we don't it's going to cost us."
Asked if this is about saving money or saving lives, Weyer says it's both.
Weyer says he gave his smoking employees more than a year and plenty of help to quit. Most did, but those who didn't had to leave. Cara Stiffler is one of four Weyco Inc. employees who was let go for refusing to take a breath test.
"I want to quit, but I want it to be on my own terms not someone forcing me to make that choice," says Stiffler.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting smokers, but in nearly half the country, including Michigan, kicking smokers to the curb is perfectly legal.
"If we say it's OK for employees to regulate our private behaviors we can kiss our private lives goodbye," says Lewis Maltby, who runs the National Workrights Institute.
Maltby says regulating smoking after work is just the first step on a slippery slope.
"If you don't smoke, do you drink?" asks Maltby. "If you don't drink, do you eat junk food? So you don't get enough exercise? Do you not eat your veggies?"
Weyer says he's just trying to be a responsible employer and knows the limits. He's not going to fire works for drinking, having promiscuous sex, eating junk food.
"No," he says.
But some workers wonder how far it might go, if one day your boss might instruct you to eat all your veggies or go home without pay.