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LETTER: Punishment-based plans a slippery slope


TO THE EDITOR: To say that I found Joanne Wojcik's July 9 article, "Employer to Fine Unhealthy Workers," horrifying would not be an overstatement, and I truly hope that Clarian Health's policy does not evidence a trend. Thanks for the editorial in the same issue expressing disapproval of this policy. Fining employees for their personal habits will, I think, lead to massive litigation based on the inherent unfairness of this policy. Neither the article nor your editorial, however, poses the obvious question, "Where will the line be drawn?"

Ultimately, for example, would employees who do not spend hours in gyms be fined? Would employees who consume trans fats be fined? Would employees who don't take prescription medicines be fined (as we discover more and more prescriptions unsafe)? Would employees who cannot eat organic foods (or cannot afford them) be fined? Would employees' sexual habits be scrutinized for "unhealthy habits," bringing on more fines? Would employees who do not get enough sleep be fined? Would employees who watch too much television or play too many video games be fined? Would employees who eat too much salt be fined?

What about carnivores vs. vegetarians? I think eating meat is unhealthy and don't do so--might I complain to an employer that is fining my co-workers for smoking or obesity on the basis that I object to my co-workers eating meat? Perhaps employers would take stock of individual employees' diets to discern nutritive content--one employee pays a fine for insufficient calcium content, while another's lutein deficiency prompts a fine. An employee who doesn't consume enough fiber has to pay a fine because of possible digestive problems. Additionally, if an employee has a family history of diabetes, ALS, certain cancers or other diseases, would an employee be fined for not getting tested for those diseases, as well? Would failure to have enough mammograms and colonoscopies bring more fines? The boundaries of Clarian's policy are endless, and lawyers will find plenty of work (and money) in suing employers based on this policy.

Just what line will be drawn? Therein lies the problem. Just having a "legal right" does not mean a business must exercise it if it's just plain wrong.

Karen Porter

West Chester, Pa.