A great concept, right?  Frequently, however, it is overrated, or at the very least, an illusion.  We attempt to have control over our lives, and just when we assume things are within our control, something happens that necessitates change.  Unless you live in an hermetically sealed bubble, on a daily basis we are subject to a wide variety of influences.  Positive and negative!  While some of these influences can be anticipated, often they come out of the blue and affect us in unexpected ways.
Rarely, in fact, do we have the control we want or struggle to achieve.  We can choose our careers, go to work at companies of our own selection, get up and head out the door at the same time each day, follow routines that we set or that are set for us.  We can choose where to eat, and select something appealing from the menu, reasonably confident that we will be served and complete our meal in time to return to work.  Then, the waiter drops the tray containing your order, or a car runs a red light and skids into the front window.  Stuff happens!  There goes the control you think you have, and there is little we can do about it.
At least that’s how the doctors and nurses at a Chicago hospital felt recently when they were fired for refusing to get a flu vaccine.  I might understand if a hospital insisted those who work in departments with the highest risk patients must comply with such an edict, but to threaten that all employees get a shot or lose their jobs is ludicrous.  With their firing, any sense of control these workers had from knowing they could pay their bills and take care of their families went right out the window.  I can understand that some people wouldn’t want shots for a variety of reasons, but for the employer to take away their choice in the matter also eliminates the workers’ control over what they are subjected to, what they put in their bodies, etc.
And then there’s CVS Pharmacy informing workers that they will be fined up to $600 per year for not revealing their weight and body fat index.  To some this may not seem like a huge amount of money, but to those who work retail this could disrupt the control they have of putting food on their table or paying their bills.  Using employees personal health information against them with threat of termination – especially in the case of those with pre-existing conditions like obesity and diabetes – is blatantly discriminatory. Is this practice legal?  In some states, yes!
Employers should not be allowed to remove qualified workers from their ranks because of any health issue!  Enabling employers to use worker health information as a cause for termination is giving the employer too much control.  Is the next step for employers to only hire those with the most “attractive” physical and healthy characteristics, rather than base hiring decisions on applicant qualifications?
Employers aren’t immune from making bone-headed moves in the name of saving money.  But it is offensive for them to claim that these personal rights violations are strictly in the interests of workers’ health, when in fact they are all measures to cut costs, increase corporate profits, line the pockets of senior executives, and keep employee pay as low as possible!
When staff are forced to reveal health issues, and employers start collecting and disseminating data about workers’ health, weight and other personal details – that have no bearing on workers’ abilities to do their jobs – it erodes employee confidence and trust, and separates them from control over their privacy!  When on the job, you want and expect any personal and private information that is shared “for the record”, to be safe, secure and tightly controlled, where nothing is revealed without explicit employee consent!
While we can’t control life’s unexpected mishaps and distractions, we try to make intelligent choices based on knowledge, experience and preparation that allow us to feel in control.  But there is one major consideration that must be remembered by all workers:  Know your rights!  Don’t just relinquish your sense of control or job security because the employer says you must do something.  Do some research!  Read the fine print in your employee handbook, employment agreement and health coverage programs.  Employers are required to notify their workers if there are any changes to these documents.
If you feel that the actions of an employer are infringing on your rights and zapping your sense of control, immediately talk to an employment counselor or an attorney.  Don’t let an employer intimidate you from asking questions or getting assistance to better understand your rights.  You have more control than you might think!
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