As we have previously discussed in this Broward County Employment Law Blog, there are numerous types of discrimination that are illegal in the workplace but obesity discrimination is not one of them. As Americans become heavier and heavier, and health insurance premiums become more and more expensive, many employers are beginning to pressure workers to get in shape.
The tire manufacturer Michelin North America has announced that employees with wide waistlines will have to pay as much as $1,000 more in health insurance premiums than their more fit colleagues. And Michelin is not alone in its choice to punish overweight workers. A recent report suggests that 20 percent of employers surveyed have consequences for employees who do not use employer-provided health tools. And about 60 percent of employers plan to begin imposing penalties within the next several years on workers who do not improve their health.
CVS Caremark is another company that has made headlines for penalizing employees for personal health issues. The company is requiring its 200,000 workers to have health screenings that will record their weight, body fat, and blood levels. If they decline to do so, they will be charged an extra $600 for health insurance.
While some people argue that this type of treatment should be illegal, and that it is an invasion of privacy, this issue has not yet been brought before a court. For now, employers here in Florida may hit unhealthy workers with insurance surcharges.
Studies, however, have shown that these workplace programs are not effective in encouraging weight loss and employers may do better to encourage healthy lifestyles by having healthy options in the cafeteria and promoting exercise.
This is a very new area of employment law and employees as well as employers may wish to seek legal guidance when disputes arise over issues like those discussed here.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Employees being penalized for health issues,” Kate Santich, April 18, 2013
Source: Fortune, “Coming to a workplace near you: Fines for being fat?” Katherine Reynolds Lewis, April 15, 2013.
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