Wednesday: MI Senator to Introduce Legislation to Provide Privacy Protection for Workers

Press Release April 10, 2005
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026 or Elizabeth M

Michigan State Senator Virg Bernero (D) will introduce a bill on Wednesday to prohibit employers from firing workers for anything legal that they do outside of the workplace. The bill was written in response to the firing of four employees who refused to take a test to determine if they smoked cigarettes. Earlier this year, Weyco Inc., a Michigan heath care company, adopted a policy that allows them to fire employees who smoke, even if the smoking happens after business hours or at home.

Hundreds of Drug Policy Alliance supporters in Michigan will receive an action alert this week asking them to call their legislators in support of Senator Bernero’s bill to protect employees’ privacy.

“Today it’s cigarettes, tomorrow it might be a company firing workers for eating unhealthy food and not exercising,” said Tony Newman, Communications Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “People shouldn’t be fired for what they do in the privacy of their own homes, as long as it doesn’t affect their ability to do their job.”

The Drug Policy Alliance created a powerful flash animation, which can be seen at and was shown on ABC’s 20/20 on April 8th, that asked viewers to vote on whether the company should be allowed to fire employees who smoke. Those who didn’t think the company should fire smokers signed a petition that will be sent to the CEO of Weyco, Inc. on Tuesday April 12th.

The founder of the company, Howard Weyers, said the anti-smoking rule was designed to protect the company from high heath care costs. “I don’t want to pay for the results of smoking,” he said. But one of the workers, Anita Epolito, the CEO’s secretary for fourteen years, was fired despite never receiving health insurance from the company.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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