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People give their medical history to nurses during a free health clinic at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on October 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
New statistics from benefit consultants show that companies are increasingly penalizing workers with unhealthy lifestyles.
Smoking is the first vice in the crosshairs, and employers are hitting employees where it hurts: in their paychecks. Of the 248 major American employers surveyed, 19 percent are now imposing financial penalties for lighting up. America’s largest employer, WalMart, recently imposed a $2000-a-year surcharge for some smokers. Other employers are taking a different tack by offering incentives to coax employees into wellness programs or insurance discounts. Cash-strapped employers cite skyrocketing health care costs as the reason for the changes.
Where should employers draw the line? Should companies fine their employees for vices outside the workplace? When does incentivizing wellness become discrimination?
Kristin Madison, professor of law and health sciences, Northeastern University
Jennifer Stapleton, assistant director of Making Change at WalMart
Steven Noeldner, consulting partner, Mercer