Saturday, May 30, 2015

Is Coercion Really the Way to Wellness?

Here's another outrage du jour.  This story on NPR news online really got my blood boiling. How 'voluntary' are employer wellness programs in reality?

One focus of the article is the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.  One thing they do is not hire smokers.  Oh, gee.  That may be legal, but it sure sounds like discrimination to me. They also have a wellness program:

"About 80 percent of Scotts employees submit to health screenings, and those deemed to be making unhealthful choices pay more for health insurance."
Spokesman Jim King "says Scotts' wellness policy attracted outside scrutiny, but its employees embrace it."

Employees embrace it?  Really?  Are they just so glad to have jobs they'll do pretty much whatever the employer demands?  Can they just not afford to pay more for their health insurance?  Or have we come to value our own autonomy so little that we're willing to have employers dictate our lifestyle choices - legal ones that are really none of their business?  Wellness may be a fine goal, but this program sounds punitive and coercive to me. 

I did find the comments of Christopher Kuczynski, Associate Legal Counsel at EEOC to be more on target.  The EEOC is considering regulations regarding incentives for these programs and ways to insure that such programs follow the law, including health privacy statutes, and are not discriminatory.

This topic has come up here before.  There was the coercive CVS employee wellness policy

There was also a mini-trend of not hiring smokers - back in 2005.

I do hope there is pushback.  I do hope the EEOC institutes some good regulations.  For my part, I have not patronized CVS since that policy started in 2013.  I haven't kept a close watch, but I'm assuming it's still going on.   And to bring this post full circle, I have decided that although I have found Miracle-Gro products fine for my houseplants, I will no longer use that brand and will look for an alternative.  It may not always be possible to stay away from companies with such dictatorial policies toward workers, but I will keep my eyes open and make some effort to not support them.

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