Friday, November 9, 2007

Companies Forbidding Smoking in Private Lives

Companies Forbidding Smoking in Private LivesA growing number of companies in Florida are forbidding their workers from smoking not only at work, but also in their private lives. Westgate Resorts, the largest private employer in Central Florida, has banned smoking and won't budge from a policy of not hiring smokers and firing employees who do smoke.

"When I found out it was legal to discriminate against smokers, I put the policy in place. If you are too stupid to understand that smoking is going to kill you, then we are going to tell you that if you want to work for our company, you will not smoke," Westgate president and CEO David Seigel said. Seigel also said that the policy was prompted by the death of his close friend - a heavy smoker who died of cancer.

Seigel said his policy is cost effective and said since it went into effect, health insurance claims have gone down significantly - making insurance more affordable for employees. The concern for privacy groups is that policies could extend beyond health issues. "Anything we can do that is legal and not discriminatory, we will do," Seigel said. "If you are an alcoholic and we have the right to fire you, we will do so. And if you are obese and there is a way for us not to hire you or to fire you, we will do that, too."

Several Westgate employees were found leaving his building and smoking in a nearby strip mall. Seigel said if those smokers will be disciplined and assisted to quit smoking, when the non-smoking policy initially went into effect he gave employees a year to stop smoking and opportunities to receive counseling, patches and other smoking cessation programs.

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