Essay Assignment

Essay Assignment


See Decision Scenario “E” on page 232 of your text. I’ve copied it below for your convenience.


In 1991, Ford Meter Box Co., a small manufacturing firm in Indiana, prohibited employees from smoking both on the job and away from work. Janice Bone worked for Ford Meter Box, and when a routine urinalysis detected nicotine in her system, she was fired for violating company policy. Bone sued, arguing that her off-work activities were private and should not be the basis for employment decisions.

Ford Meter is on a growing list of companies that are placing employment restrictions on smokers. The most obvious restriction is the prohibition of smoking on the job. A number of considerations have led companies to go further than this, leading to policies like Ford Meter’s, which prohibits smoking altogether. Companies argue that increased health care and insurance costs associated with smoking justify these restrictions. Smokers use health care insurance more often, they have greater rates of absenteeism, and tend to retire earlier than other workers due to health issues such as emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease. In the opinion of many employers, these factors make smoking a job-relevant activity.

Some companies, like Texas Instruments and U-Haul, require smokers to pay higher rates–an insurance surcharge–for health insurance. In 1994 a Lockheed plant in Georgia joined companies like Turner Broadcasting in refusing to hire people who smoke. In defending their policy, a Lockheed spokesperson referred to an American Lung Association study that showed companies pay up to $5000 per year in additional health care costs for employees who smoke. The Lockheed policy applied only to new employees.

In response to Janice Bone’s lawsuit, the state of Indiana passed a law protecting employees from dismissal because they smoke outside of the workplace. By 1993, 28 states had passed legislation protecting the rights of workers.

–Is smoking an activity that is job relevant? Are all employee activities that can increase employer costs relevant for employment decisions?

–Ford Meter Box conducted routine urinalysis tests to check for traces of nicotine. Is this means of enforcing the policy policy reasonable?

–Should governments get involved in these issues, or should they be left to the individual bargaining between employers and employees?

–Ford Meter fired a present employee for smoking. Lockheed refused to hire smokers, but left alone present employees. Texas Instruments and U-Haul placed additional conditions on employees who smoke. Are all of these policies justified? Some of these policies? None of them?

Your assignment: Does a company have the right to prohibit employees from smoking off the job? Carefully consider both sides. In a good philosophy paper, you need to address or talk about the problems an opponent would bring up. There is nothing to be gained by ignoring or hiding potential problems or objections with your position. The goal is not to stake out a position and defend it no matter what. The goal is (at its loftiest) truth; however, I think we should be very pleased if we merely understand the problem better when we are finished. You needn’t conclude one side is right (although one side may well be). The goal is to demonstrate that you have thoughtfully considered the problem, and have expressed your views clearly and concisely.