Weyco Smoking Ban

By: Rachel Calderon
By: Rachel Calderon

Beginning Jan. 1, 2005, all employees at Weyco cannot smoke on or off the company's property. In addition, they're no hiring anyone who says they smoke, and they'll randomly test current employees to ensure they're abiding by the new rule.

"They have 13 months to make a decision. I always say life is a cafeteria and you have several choices to make. You have to make the decision that if you want to work here, you have to kick the habit," Howard Weyers, President & CEO of Weyco.

But some employees who smoke and don't smoke say, these new rules are unfair.

"I'm not a smoker, this isn't a smoking issue for me. I have a problem with what my employer can tell me what I can and can't do outside of work," Pamela Duprest, employee.

"Where do we draw the line? I feel this is a privacy issue that the company is crossing," Corey Philipp, employee.

While many will argue that this is an issue of privacy and not smoking, there's no Michigan law that prohibits a private employer from not hiring someone who smokes. Call it smoker’s discrimination, but in Michigan it's legal.

"There's no civil right to smoke. Smoking is not a disability under state and federal law. So it comes down to privacy. So where do we draw that line? Much of our non-work activity impacts our work and that's where the employer justifies this. But what about weight and height? Those are protected classifications, just like age, race and religion," Mike Bommarito, labor attorney.

But what concerns this attorney is that policies like this could backfire.
"Weyco has the right, but it doesn't make it the right thing to do. you have to decide if you make a policy like this how this will affect productivity and morale."

Many employees agree the company provides several resources to encourage a healthier lifestyle, but they participate by choice.

"Yes I have the choice to smoke and yes I have the choice to work here. But what the company is saying quit, or be fired. That's not a choice," Bethany Billard, employee.

"I'm not not interested in invading someone’s privacy. I just say that these are the rules if you want to work here," Weyers said.

Meanwhile, Weyco employees have until Nov. 26 to sign a statement of understanding. After that, they'll have to decide if they'll abide by those rules, or look for other places of employment.


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