Crossing the line

Feb 01 2010 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Almost exactly five years ago, Dab Bobinski wrote a piece here on Management-issues entitled Employer, yes. Dictator, no. His point – simply put: "when employers dictate what their employees can or cannot do in their own time, they have crossed the line. Big time."

Move on five years and it's a measure of the level of creeping corporatism in the US that we now find that employers don't just want to dictate what their employees can or cannot do in their own time, they want to dictate what family members of those employees do, too.

As Business Week explains, "the next front in the Wellness Wars is not about you. It's about your husband, your wife, and your kids….legislators have been working to give companies more power to tie healthy behavior to financial rewards. " Let's leave it to Dan to remind us of the implications of this. As he wrote back in 2005:

"With companies adopting (and getting away with) this "save-on-health-care-cost" mentality, it won't be long before they're banning obese people from their ranks. And those who ride motorcycles, go hunting, kayaking, scuba diving, or rock-climbing will also be forced to give up their "dangerous" (but legal) activities.

"...If employees don't stand up to this new onslaught of bullying, it won't be long before the workplace Gestapo is knocking on your door while you're hiding in the crawlspace, wondering if those cookies your neighbor gave you are considered contraband."

So how far will corporate intrusion into our personal lives have extended in 2015? And at what point will we stop tolerating it? Watch this space...


Older Comments

Pretty soon the only freedom you'll have left will be the freedom to do what the government or some corporation tells you to do. America has been hijacked by corporations. Its time to get it back.


While this is concerning, better corporations than the government. It's easier to change jobs than countries.


I am both a mountain climber and the pilot of my own airplane and I have been having problems with that in recent years; the first time was when got life-insurance without asking for it as a new service tied to my bank account, which specifically prohibited such activities. Legally, I should have either ceased to climb and fly or quit the account I had because someone, suddenly decided that from then on – it wasn't in the original contract - I needed something that I didn't ask for because pilots have specific insurance policies! The problem wasn't so much to pay for something that I wouldn't use but actually that it suddenly left me in a legal loophole. It was very hard to explain that fact and I don't think the bank quite got it… Now the same mentality seems to be crawling in the workplace; you are in for a treat, believe me!

Pablo Argentina

On the other hand if you accept health care insurance from your employer, they have a concern for those activities that will affect your ability to work. In the US we are seeing huge increases in health care costs because of life style choices. If you choose dangerous activities you run the risk of injury or death. Both create a problem for the employer.

The option is do not work for an employer who provides health insurance. Become a contractor and purchase your own insurance.

I definitely am not in favor of Obamacare. I believe individuals should have the freedom to choose the type of coverage. If it is employer based, then I have to abide by what they deem appropriate healthy behavior.

Jack Wilson

Obamacare tells me right away you are against anything a Democrat would suggest. It's codeword for ignorant in this case. Unless you have been an independent contractor or small business person you have no idea what it is like to purchase health insurance. And that's available only if you are healthy. Get sick and the rates go way up. Cancel and look for health insurance cheaper and you are dealing with preexisting conditions. Obamacare is not about big government taking over your health care it is about putting some restraints on the runaway freight train called health insurance in this country. Get past your bias and read the truth it might make you change your mind


I work for a large Company who is trying to bring wellness to their employees and families- not because they want to 'control' what people do but because people don't know what to do, can't get started, can't afford the healthy food (maybe Obama can control this since he is trying to control everything else) or don't know what is healthy and what is not! Why reach into homes? Well lets see -childhood obesity has tripled in the last 20 yrs! We (US) have already had at least one young adult (under 20 years of age) who needed cardiac bypass surgery which was directly related to lifestyle issues. Is that enough of a reason? Let's add another one. How many of you have gone to your doctor and been told that 'everything is normal' and sent on your merry way; only to find out the next year that your Cholesterol is off the charts- and guess what, last year it was in the 'high-normal' range but your doctor felt there wasn't any need to tell you until it hit the abnormal range! I am all for employers helping us and my family to understand how to make better choices, how to use my healthcare benefits smarter, how to ask my doctor for my results and take responsibility myself instead of hoping he or she cares enough to tell me when my numbers are starting to change. I also am glad they are going to help me understand some of the medical jargon - like 'metabolic syndrome'. I am also very thankful that they are trying to put healthy food in the vending machines and introducing walkstations at work - or maybe I am not seeing the downsize… my big bad employer is just trying to tell me what to do at work! and if that is your attitude then you should be saying THANK YOU. Healthcare reform is going to change everything about how care is accessed and delivered and not for the good of all I am afraid. For those who think this will be the best thing since sliced bread- talk to people from other countries who have a socialized healthcare plan now. Ask them about waiting for care, their tax rate, if their Government has spent time educating them on better food choices or exercise habits, if fresh fruit and vegetables are cheaper then potato chips and are tax free, when someone finally figured out soda, high fat, sugar and fried foods should not be part of a child's educational experience. Maybe if someone had cared enough to spend time on healthier life style options, we would not be in such an unhealthy place now but the Governments planning was all around healthcare for all instead of what is leading to the need for MORE and MORE healthcare interventions. And hate to tell you but the Pres did not introduce any of these in the healthcare reform bill either. In fact what was introduced was an incentive that makes it much more attractive for large employers to stop offering healthcare to their employees and families. Yes Sir, with the cost of healthcare per employee as high as it is currently, the penalty per employee to cease offering healthcare benefits is a much smarter financial decision. So bottom line if Employers do not help us to understand better ways to achieve some healthier lifestyle habits and connect this change to our biometric portfolio then who is this great Nation is going to take this on? By getting involved and caring, we help people to live longer, decrease disabling conditions, decrease stress related to illness/diseases and that all leads to decrease cost. So thank you big bad Employer for caring not just about me, but about my family too!