Put Down That Donut; Your Employer is Watching You

Do you give your employer 40 hours of your life per week? Perhaps you give them more time than that. Perhaps you have given your best years to your employer. Perhaps you have given up the chance to have children because you are married to your job or in a relationship with your career.

I bet, though, that you haven’t given your employer your cholesterol levels. I bet you haven’t given them your blood pressure readings. I bet you haven’t volunteered your waist circumference — in inches and centimeters — to your employer. Well, some companies are now requiring that information from their employees.

When I first heard this, I thought, How is this legal? What about the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)? As it turns out, HIPAA does make research more difficult to conduct, and HIPAA does add extra costs to medical practices, but HIPAA does not necessarily protect you from an employer who wants to make sure you don’t get fat.

Reportedly, these companies use third parties to track employee metrics such as waist circumference, glucose and blood pressure levels, cholesterol, and weight, so as to protect employee identities. Still, though, there’s a reason I don’t paint my metrics on my shirt and walk around showing them to everyone; that reason is: I think the only people who should be tracking my metrics are me and my doctor, not my employer, and not some third-party contractor that works for my employer.

I’m upset by this in part because the underlying reason (ca$h money) for the recent uptick in an employer’s “concern” for his or her employees is mercenary. Not only that, but every state in this country (except Montana) is an at-will state. That means that employers can fire employees at will, for just cause, unjust cause, or no cause at all. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I could see this situation turning into something like this: employer doesn’t like that employee is gaining weight? Fired. Of course, employer could fire employee anyways (because that whole at-will thing), but this adds fuel to the fire (pun totally intended).

But I’m upset mainly because it represents an intrusion into the lives of people (the employees) by those who shouldn’t be intruding (the employer). It’s not enough that wages have been stagnant for years, despite rising cost of living; it’s not enough that Americans have stopped using vacation time because they are afraid of losing their jobs. Now, all meals and health choices are directly tied to the employer’s watchful eye. And that is a sad and scary thing, indeed.


Laura Creel (@Little_Utopia) is the managing editor of Little Utopia.LC

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One response to “Put Down That Donut; Your Employer is Watching You

  1. At will employees may be fired for just cause or no cause, not unjust cause. Of course you have to prove it was unjust which is not always doable. Obviously you can’t fire someone based on Gender, race, etc: immutable characteristics. Aside from that what’s unjust would be judged based on what a reasonable employer in similar circumstances would do.

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