Ohio Firm Latest to Join Workplace Smoking Crackdown

December 22, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Scotts Miracle-Gro Company's new wellness program includes a mandate for employees to stop smoking or be fired.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the stop-smoking initiative is part of a broad wellness program that includes a $5 million fitness gym and health clinic opened last month near the company’s headquarters. Employees on the company’s medical plan will have free access in the clinic to a physician, nurse practitioners, diet and fitness experts and a pharmacy with generic drugs.

In return, every year employees must take a health assessment through a program affiliated with medical-information Web site WebMD Health Corp. or pay $40 extra a month in health care costs, according to the WSJ. Employees will fill out an online health assessment, then a “health coach” contacts the employee and arranges a treatment regimen for any health issues. The employee must follow through with the recommendations or pay higher premiums, though the exact amount hasn’t been worked out yet.

Next October, Marysville, Ohio-based Scotts will begin randomly testing about 20% of its work force nationwide where it is legal to do so. The company says it hasn’t worked out the details of how to test employees. Workers found to be still smoking or using other tobacco products habitually could be fired as long as they work in states where such termination is legal. In states that do have smoker-protection laws, employees who are on the company’s medical plan could see their health care premiums rise substantially.

Jim Hagedorn, Scotts’ chief executive and a former smoker, says that employees who are putting in a good effort to quit even after the October deadline will not have to worry about penalty. “If you work with us, and we know you’re working with us, I don’t think you’re going to end up getting fired,” he said.

Many firms are penalizing smokers believing workers with bad habits negatively affect health care costs (SeePeachStateSlaps on $40 Employee Smoking SurchargeandNorthwest to Kick off Smoker Health Coverage Surcharge).

The smoking issue in the workplace and employers dictating even non-workplace behaviors caused heated debates after Michigan firm Weyco adopted a policy not to hire smokers and forced all employees to be tested for tobacco use (See Lawyers Smolder over MI Firm’s No-Smoking Policy).