The Pentagon is considering a recommendation that it ban tobacco use among all members of the military. Likewise, professional sports teams routinely prohibit athletes from skiing, riding motorcycles or playing pick-up basketball due to risk of injury. Should employers be able to regulate your personal life?
No. Unless it is detrimental to the job or poorly reflects values of the profession personal life is just that...personal. That's like asking if health care providers should bar obese people from working in the health care profession since it doesn't portray a healthy lifestyle. There needs to be a limit to personal interference. I may have my disdain for obesity, substance use,ignorance and rudeness but to each his own...I am no more superior than the next person. -Teri Gibbons, Rochester, MN
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
The fine line between work and personal life has been wearing away for some time. As work life and personal life start to blur employers are naturally going to try to regulate the behavior of their employees since they now represent their respective companies both in and out of the work place. I don't think it's right for employers to regulate the average blue collar worker. Regulating people outside of the workplace feels like an assault on individual rights. I can understand some regulation of military or professional sports because their physical condition directly relates to their job performance... but that's a slippery slope. -Jonathan Campbell, Hopkins, MN
I use to think America was founded and based on freedom? I guess pretty soon employers, along with government, will be able to regulate how many and when their employees can decide to have children. -Kimberly Johannsen, Shoreview, MN
I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement to a healthier lifestyle . So incentives towards that goal make sense to me. If that can be accomplished by companies through their health plans , it will reduce the overall cost of treatment after the onset of issues. We must work towards preemptive model with respect to health care . Companies in the US can push that forward . Outside of health I do not see anything wrong with a personal contract which precludes destructive behavior. -Tom Mallon, Minneapolis, MN
Not sure those examples are comparable. Pro athletes have professionally negotiated contracts that pay them handsomely. Army grunts have almost infinitely less leverage with their employer. This isn't a yes/no question. Would it be sane for employers to mandate a perfectly healthy lifestyle, including exercise (low impact - watch the joints!), no fat, no meat, no white wine, no breathing polluted air? Obviously not, but it does make sense to provide incentives for behavior that will enhance productivity - subsidized gym memberships, etc. We're working more than ever, we need to keep our private lives for ourselves. -Ben Gillies, St. Paul, MN
When in a college track program, I was not allowed to swim or ski. No hardship then. Employers are not allowed to ask personal questions at interview time, therefore they should not be able to dictate behavior after hiring. I gave my hours to each employer as negotiated for pay and benefits. They should never be able to then Change the Rules after agreeing to the hours and responsibilities. -John Reay, Minneapolis, MN
I find a military smoking ban absurd. I'd like to see how they plan to tell infantrymen in a prolonged fire fight that the no smoking light is on. -Jess
Two chief issues come to mind: (1) Timing. There's a difference between ad hoc changing regulations after the employee is hired vs. those written up-front into an initial hiring contract. The latter seems more reasonable, the former is borderline fascistic. (2) Purpose & Symmetry. Presumably, regulations serve the betterment of the company. In this era of run-it-to-the-ground and slash&burn management, off-shoring, and bailing out, the next consideration is the basic asymmetry of the problem: employers desire to dictate how employees must live, but apparently management is free to practice company-self-destructive behavior? -Paul Bramscher, Circle Pines, MN
I believe there are professions out there that have reasonable expectations on performance that overlap into personal life. I also believe there are professions that have little, if any, overlap and should not have "off-duty" life activities scrutinized by their employer. I believe this is something that requires healthy debate and an open mind on the part of both employers and employees. -Leanne Kunze, Waconia, MN
My answer is simple. As long as the employer bears a financial burden (whether it be in higher health insurance rates or workers compensation costs) for personal habits that affect your health, they should be able to issue some rules in regards to those personal habits while you work. People can't have it both ways, to have their lung cancer treatment paid for by the employer sponsored health insurance AND refuse to give up smoking while at work. -Kari Harding, Canby, MN
In the case of the military, the contract you enter essentially states that you are property of the military during the duration of your enlistment. As far as employment at will I don't believe that an employer should have the right to dictate your lifestyle. That could be a very slippery slope that would be very hard to back peddle from. That kind of control encroaches on the individual civil rights and liberties that are the corner stone of american citizenship. -Jesse Zeimet, Minneapolis, MN
No!! This sets a dangerous precedent and borders on violating one's right to privacy. -Sandra Henry, Bolingbrook, IL
Yes, if a reasonable person would think that the banned behavior could harm the company. Companies have a right to do what is in their best interest. If you own a football team and a player gets hurt and can't play, you loose money. So, you can say, "If you want to play for my team, you can't ski or ride a motorcycle." Jobs are voluntary. The government, on the other hand, should not be able to regulate my personal life. -Chris Erickson, Minneapolis, MN
No, but they do, always have, and always will. Even if laws may keep them from firing those employees they do not consider to be the kind of people they wish to employ, they can and will retaliate however they can, and reward those that do as they suggest. -Paul Lareau, Little Canada, MN
You can not include situations where there is an employment contract in this debate. Professional sports and military both have contracts and therefore the employer can regulate what ever they want within the bounds of the contract. For the military, smoking should have been banned long ago, who wants a soldier to be in battle and have a twitchy finger because they need a fix? Where the employment is at-will, employers should not be able to regulate your personal life, this includes blogs and other items as long as they are not disparaging to the employer. -Richard Garnett, Minneapolis, MN
Only if said banned behavior affects the job. -Dustin, Montgomery, MN
If you don't like what an employer is asking in exchange for employment...don't work for them! I have a choice which company I work for, I do NOT have a choice which government governs me. -Dennis Fisher, Dayton, MN
I think if it could potentially affect your job performance by a considerable amount, it is reasonable for your employer to ask. For example, if you were a model, your employer may not want you getting inappropriate tattoos or making drastic appearance changes as it could affect sales of product, the image a company is trying to sell, and so on. Let's keep in mind that people apply for a job of their own free will. If you do not like the demands or requirements of a job, then you can always look somewhere else. Although I do think there is a fine line between what is okay and not okay for an employer to ask of their employees. -Keli Holtmeyer, Maple Grove, MN
No! But they do. No explanations or discussions needed and they will continue to regulate personal lives until folks realize they have lost a lost of basic freedoms along with comfort zones. This regulation is subtle and not painful yet but it's coming. Period. -Bertie Williams
I am amazed at people's thinking; on the one hand people absolutely resent a government health plan, because it might be socialistic. On the other hand they allow the government to regulate their private actions...No smoking, no abortions, no gays in the military... I dont get it.. are these regulations not interfering with the social texture of this society??? -Regina Rippel, St. Paul, MN
Share your reply in the comments: Should employers be able to regulate your personal life?