Whirlpool Workers Lied about Smoking to Dodge Premium Hike

April 23, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Whirlpool Co. has suspended 39 factory workers in Evansville, Indiana, for lying on health forms about their tobacco habits.

The Associated Press reports that the workers signed insurance paperwork claiming they do not use tobacco, but were later seen smoking or chewing tobacco on company property. A Whirlpool spokeswoman told the AP the company uses financial incentives which vary by location to encourage workers to abstain from tobacco use, and the Evansville plant charges workers who use tobacco an extra $500 in health insurance premiums.

The higher premium has been in place since 1996, and Whirlpool depends on employees to be honest about their tobacco use on insurance forms, the news report said. The workers were suspended without pay and will be able to justify their actions in a fact-finding meeting with management, after which they could be fired if it is determined they lied.

Other employers have started levying health insurance penalties for workers who smoke (See PeachStateSlaps on $40 Employee Smoking Surchargeand Northwest to Kick off Smoker Health Coverage Surcharge ), but Weyco Inc. and Scotts Miracle-Gro created controversy when they instituted policies for not hiring smokers in the first place or firing employees who do not quit smoking (See Lawyers Smolder over MI Firm’s No-Smoking Policy and Ohio Firm Latest to Join Workplace Smoking Crackdown ).