New ways to get fired
The list of offenses for which you could lose your job seems to be swelling.
Are companies getting more intrusive in dictating private
Consider some recent events:
It's a brave new world in the workplace.
Technology and changing culture have combined to create new ways to put your
job in jeopardy.
The boss can even look over your shoulder
when you're on your own time.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em
Smoking is an area where many employers
might someday consider a crackdown. With health insurance costs soaring,
companies can make a fiscal-responsibility case to justify smoking
"No other company has gone as far as
Weyco," says John Challenger, of the outplacement consulting firm,
Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "But companies are caught between a rock
and a hard place in regard to health care costs. More and more CEOs are looking
hard at it."
A survey from the Society for Human Resource
Management (SHRM), which counts nearly 200,000 human resource professionals in
its ranks, examined company smoking policies, and suggested employers are still
More than 72 percent of the HR pros surveyed
said that their companies have designated smoking areas, for example. A mere 19
percent ban workplace smoking, and none of the surveyed firms have formal
policies against hiring smokers.
A small number of employers, about 5
percent, do draw the line by charging smokers higher health-care insurance
"It's hard to blame an employer for not
wanting to absorb higher medical insurance costs," says Lewis Maltby,
president of National Workrights Institute, a non-profit organization that
advocates for rights in the workplace. "Why should I pay for your bad
Smoking is not the only lifestyle choice
that can affect your health and your employer's health care costs. "Should
I have to pay higher insurance costs because you go skiing or eat at McDonalds
or practice unsafe sex?" Maltby asks.
Policing anti-smoking and other lifestyle
policies means conducting urine or blood analysis tests, mandating healthy
cholesterol levels, and prohibiting dangerous sports and activities.
"There's no way to draw the line,"
says Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training. "If you say you can't
smoke and you use blood tests to police it, you could also test for genes that
Employers don't necessarily need
sophisticated tests to figure out when when one of their workers is becoming
As far as the Borgata cocktail waitresses
are concerned, health care costs do not factor in. The young women look, well,
remarkably fit. The issue there is beauty, not insurance premiums.
But Challenger says that companies in other
industries could start looking at employee obesity, which also leads to higher
health care spending.
Employees may not realize just how
vulnerable they are to termination. If the reason for losing your job seems
unfair, many people's reasoning seems to go, it must be illegal.
Employment in most states, however, is
"at will." That means that your employer has the right (outside of a
few protectected categories such as age, race, and religion) to fire you at any
time for any reason -- or for no reason at all.
Even political differences can lead to
termination. Just ask Lynne Gobelle of Moulton, Georgia, fired for displaying a
John Kerry bumper sticker.
Her boss, Phil Geddes, made no bones of his
fealty to President Bush. He even included a pro-Bush flyer in employees' pay
envelopes. Gobelle explored her options to fight her dismissal and found she
"Do not think you're protected by the
First Amendment," says Maltby. "It doesn't apply to private
employment." He says only five states have rules protecting against
Even successful CEOs, like Boeing's
Stonecipher, can fall from grace in ways unheard in the past.
"What helped sink him was that he went
around preaching no tolerance" for violations of company ethics, according
to Handal. "He lived by the sword and he died by the sword."
Handal advises employees to remember three
Perhaps the best advice for people who want
to keep their jobs comes straight from prizefighting: Protect yourself at all