So imagine you are the owner of a company. You have many employees of all different kinds. Some of these employees are more productive than others. Some cost you more money than others. Shouldn’t you be allowed to get rid of the employees who cost you more than they are worth? Shouldn’t you be allowed to hire or fire anyone you want for any position for any reason? This is the freedom you have as a business-person.
Now, things get hairy if someone tries to be racist, sexist, anti-semitic, ageist, etc. A woman with more experience gets paid less than a man in the same position. An African American is hired for a position instead of a more qualified Caucasian. An old person is fired right as they are about to earn their pension to be replaced by a younger person. These are the kinds of discrimination that we need to outlaw.
Why? For two reasons. First, it is unfair to make hiring decisions based on criteria that people can not control. A Hispanic can not become black. A woman can not become a man (surgery will most likely lead to worse discrimination). Second, these are not criteria that have any effect on job performance. There is nothing about race or gender that will affect your job performance. Two people of different genders and races with equivalent education and experience will both be equally good at any particular position, as far as an employer knows. To make your decision based on those factors is just plain wrong.
Smoking is a completely different story. A smoker is very likely to take many smoking breaks. This will reduce the amount of time they spend doing what you are paying them to do, which is work. If you ban smoking breaks, they will probably become very upset while unable to smoke, and will not be able to concentrate on their work. Oh, and people smoking outside your building is more likely to piss off your non-smoking employees who have to deal with secondhand smoke as they enter and exit. Oh, the increased risk of fire, and increased insurance costs count for something too. Oh, and since they are a smoker, you can’t count on this person to be a long-term employee.
Smoking is a decision that people make. They choose, willingly, to make themselves worth less as employees. They let the whole world know that they lack will power and good judgment skills. Not only should employers be allowed to discriminate against such people, they would be stupid not to.
Now let’s look at the obese people. For a moment, let us forget about people with thyroid problems. They are incredibly rare, and they can bring a doctor’s note to their employer to avoid discrimination. When I say obese people, I mean people who are so fat that it interferes with their everyday lives. We’re talking about people who need special, expensive, seating. We’re talking about people with fat fingers who might need to type on their keyboard and telephone with a pencil. We’re talking about people who can’t walk at an average speed. My friend, once, literally could not get down a hallway at work because an obese person was as wide as the hall. Also, the insurance costs and the poor likelihood that this person will serve you in the long term. It’s much easier to justify spending money to train someone who is likely to be an employee for many years, than it is for someone who is likely to have a heart attack tomorrow.
Obesity is a decision that people make. It may not be a fully conscious decision, like smoking is originally. However, it is clearly the result of a lack of will power in the vast majority of cases. A person is just unable to will themselves into eating less and working out more. If a person has so little control over their body that they can’t stop eating, and they can’t force themselves to work out on a regular schedule, how can you expect that person to force themselves to do the work you assign them? Heck, with the problems of an obese person, how can you expect them to show up to work every day?
It all boils down to one thing. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that we should judge people by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. If smoking and obesity are not representative of the negative content of one’s character, then what is? What does it say about someone when they choose to smoke? What does it say about someone when they can’t control themselves enough to not be obese? It is fair to discriminate against them because they can always quit smoking or lose weight. With more potential employees than open positions, it would be in the best interest of any employers to start taking such factors into consideration for their employee hiring and firing procedures.