Sometimes students think we make it up. Tuesday we talked about employers monitoring off-duty conduct such as smoking. After many students expressed disbelief that an employer could discharge an at-will employee for smoking–“But smoking is legal!”–I related how The Scotts Company did that very thing a few years ago. Welcome to at-will employment. The next day an alert student emailed this article from CNN.com: 39 Whirlpol workers suspended over smoking lies. The workers signed statements for Whirlpool’s insurers that they do not use tobacco “and then were seen smoking or chewing tobacco on company property.” Some may be fired–for lying about smoking, not for smoking. The company employs financial incentives to discourage smoking, charging tobacco users an extra $500 for annual health insurance premiums, practice common for large companies (with more than 20,000 employees), 16 percent of which charge higher insurance premiums to tobacco users.
Others have picked up the story about Scott Co.’s termination of Scott Rodrigues for smoking. Legal Blog Watch mentions the story here. Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer has a post about the story and links to Do No Evil and its 200-plus comments on the suit, to Out of the Jungle’s topical links and articles, and to Worker’s Comp Insider, which has followed this issue since 2005.