Workers Have Ever Less Privacy Rights

It is the rare modern worker who doesn’t occasionally use the Internet for purely personal reasons during a normal work day, but few workers would raise an eyebrow about their computers being monitored by their employer, or being tested for drug use, or restrictions on smoking in the work place, or passing through screening devices, or having to be at work on time, wear appropriate clothing and on and on.

But, now consider this. On Monday, November 20th, some 13,900 employees of a large Minnesota health care system faced a deadline for getting flu shots, with exemptions permissible only for those with a validly documented medical reason or based upon religious beliefs. More than 99% of the workers complied, but about 50 workers refused the shots as a matter of personal judgment. On Monday, those resisting employees were fired. Make no mistake, in an open shop state like Texas, exactly the same thing could be required, with the same predictable outcome for resisters. This compulsory decision matters a lot because it is the first step onto a very slippery slope towards the elimination of any bodily-related privacy at all.

This employer based its compulsion of flu shots on its desire to reduce lost work time and thereby boost productivity. But, that said, can employers demand, for instance, that you weigh within a certain limit because being overweight makes you move slower? Can you be required to not drink coffee because it makes workers cranky? Can you be required to eat only fruits and vegetables because sugary snacks might make you jittery? Can you be forced to wear contacts because glasses might make you look nerdy to customers? Can you be forced to have your teeth whitened or straightened because that might reduce cavities?

Hopefully, you get the point that, while employers have every right to demand a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, there should be some bright lines beyond which they simply can’t go in telling you what to do with your very own body. Those bright lines blurred, dimmed and faded just a bit more on Monday…