Do You Police Your Employees?

3 employees, 1 is angry Have you ever thought about policing your employees and finding out what they do own their own time? Do you worry that your employees might be undermining the image of your practice?

Recently, the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Cleveland Clinic have banned the hiring of people who smoke. According to a recent AMedNews.com article, this is a trend on the rise with health care institutions. The thought is that it improves community health and lowers health care costs. Admirable, but is it going too far? Is it the beginning of a slippery slope? How do individual rights match-up against the rights of a company to control its image and its costs? And, when does it become discrimination?

In addition to smoking, what other kinds of policing are being done by employers –either openly or secretly? Some examples include:
-Not hiring employees who are obese
-Monitoring employee hobbies and behavior outside of work
-Monitoring what is said and/or posted on personal social media by employees

So, what exactly can employers legally get away with monitoring and restricting? The short answer is it depends on what state you live in and the lesson from the article is to be very cautious and think carefully before you impose any sort of discipline or punishment on an employee. Generally, courts are leaning towards protecting the rights of the employee. However, some cases have been successfully made when the monitored activity directly impacts the employee’s ability to perform his or her job.

Thus, while the monitoring of employee behavior is legally and ethically murky at best, and the article doesn’t go into too much detail on any one type of employee monitoring, there are some specific tidbits worth noting from the article:
-29 states have laws that prohibit hiring bans on smokers.
-While obese people are not a protected class, there are many conditions and diseases that are related to obesity, or caused by it, that are protected by the ADA.
-If an employee violates HIPPA via social media (by posting pictures, etc) discipline for such action could be justified.

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