Hide Yo’ Burgers, Hide Yo’ Snacks! Employers Target Obese Staff Members With Wellness Programs

July 2, 2014  |  

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If you thought your grandmother was the only one fretting because you put on a pound or two, think again. In recent years, employers have launched various wellness initiatives for their workers. The motive for creating these programs is to help employees live happier, healthier live, which will boost productivity. But some workers feel their employers have become too intrusive.

NPR tells the story of Dallas-based Ryan Tax Service, which offers a wellness program to its 2,000-person staff.  Health fairs, screenings and health club memberships are included; approximately 70 percent of their employees participate. The company says the program has helped lower the health care costs for the company. Obesity can cause diabetes, blindness, infertility and other illnesses that can raise a company’s insurance rates. Executive vice president, Delta Emerson told NPR more than half of the relatively young staff are overweight.

“We have to be very sensitive about the fact that there are some people that are not going to want anyone to have a conversation with them about that, even indirectly.”

Another company, Genotrics in Cedar Rapids, IA has helped control their insurance costs by replacing the tableware in the company’s cafeteria. Genotric’s Anne Ohrt who executes firm operations, told NPR: “”We have 10-inch plates and tall, narrow [drinking] glasses” in the cafe — to help people manage their portions.” She also noted their company’s office is located on the third floor and cafeteria is not on the same floor.

Despite these health changes, employers cannot directly speak to their staff about health concerns because of laws. If they do, it will be categorized as discrimination.

Some employees don’t wait for the law to kick in. They push back on their own. A professor of Pennsylvania State University, Matthew Woessner led a rebellion against the university’s program after they requested employees participate in a medical screening or pay an extra $100 mandatory fee for health insurance.

While these programs start off with great intentions, there’s  fine line between helping employees and indirectly targeting certain staff members because they don’t fit a physical standard that might save the company a few bucks.

Do you think these health programs benefit discriminate employers? Weigh in, below.

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