interviewer had a photo of my house, charging smokers more for insurance, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer had a photo of my house

I went on an interview last week and I think the manager I met with had a print-out with a picture of my house in his interview folder. I didn’t get a clear look at it, but it looked like an old house listing. I have my address on my resume, but this freaked me out. I’ve never experienced something like this before and it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Is this normal? Should I remove the specifics of my address and just list my city and state moving forward?

That is not normal. It’s creepy and it’s invasive. There’s zero reason he needs a photo of your house.

At least one commenter here has mentioned in the past that an interviewer looked up their house online, concluded they weren’t hurting for money, and tried to lowball them on salary as a result. This is not a normal practice, it’s totally inappropriate, and I hope this is that same interviewers because otherwise it means there’s more than one person doing this.

It’s fine to just include your city and state on your resume. That used to stand out as a little weird (and could make employers wonder if you were actually local or not), but it’s increasingly common these days.

2. Health insurance discounts for non-smokers

My company’s HR department just sent out a company-wide email that employees who smoke will pay an additional $15 a month for health coverage. It applies to anyone who identified themselves as a smoker or had nicotine in their blood. My employer has an “optional” program to take a blood test in exchange for a discount if you hit certain goals. I say “optional” because the discount is very substantial. Coverage is quite affordable with it, and quite expensive without it. You can avoid the fee if you complete a free “Tobacco Free Life” course offered by the same company that handles our blood tests.

I won’t be subject to it (I don’t smoke and never have), but I have conflicting feelings on this. On one hand, getting fewer people to smoke saves everyone on costs and is obviously beneficial to health. On the other, this feels like further erosion of employee privacy. $15 a month doesn’t seem so bad now, but I see that only going up in future years. It also seems rather convenient that they only announced this policy *after* everyone has tested.

Is this becoming a thing now? Or is my company acting abnormally? Do you think companies should be doing things like this?

Yes, this is becoming a thing. An increasing number of companies are requiring smokers to pay more for health insurance or discounting the rates of non-smokers. In fact, tobacco use is one of the factors that insurance premiums are allowed to be based on under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA lets insurance companies charge smokers a tobacco surcharge of up to 50 percent more.

As for what I think … I don’t like to see employers meddling in people’s choices outside of work, and I think it’s incredibly messed up that we tie health insurance to employment at all. I’d like to see employers removed from that system altogether. But as long as they’re a key part of it, they’re going to do what they can to push more of the costs of personal choices on to employees to bear.

3. My team member is full of ideas and can’t prioritize

I am a contractor leading a small team of contractors and employees (the contractor/employee mix is normal for our industry). One of my team members, another contractor, is responsible for figuring out how we can manufacture new designs and making sure our old designs are still durable. And he’s great at it — he’s super-smart and keeps on top of the latest technology to make our old and new designs. He’s so great at this, in fact, that every month or so he’ll come up with a complex project to improve our old designs that will take multiple months to implement. He’ll insist that it’s something we need — and it probably is! But my job as team lead is to balance the new work with the old, and he chafes at these limits. He gets visibly frustrated at the idea that the team can’t just take on these improvements as he comes up with them while also continuing with the old ones AND completing new projects, and he hates that we have a list of his ideas that might never get worked on. In his mind, every improvement is equally valuable. If I ask for the top 10 out of 25, after much prodding he’ll say maybe we can drop this one or two, but all the others are absolutely necessary.

Here’s where it matters that we’re both contractors. I’m not his boss. If I were, I would’ve sat down with him and said, “Prioritization is a job requirement, we can work on it together, but the bottom line is you need to get better at prioritizing OR ELSE.” But I don’t have an “or else.” The team plans our workflow quarterly and weekly, which helps, but doesn’t put much of a dent in his long list of ideas. Do you have any tips for how I can push this team member to prioritize?

You can deliver that message without an explicit “or else.” In fact, even if you weren’t a contractor and were his manager, you wouldn’t begin with an “or else” anyway! That would be heavy-handed — and frankly the “or else” is generally implied when someone with authority over your work tells you to change something.

So you can just sit down with him and say what you proposed above, minus the “or else.” It’ll probably help to spell out for him that in an average quarter or year, you might have room for X new projects at most — and that to take on more new projects than that, you’d need to cut existing projects, which isn’t an option because (reasons).

But really, you can say this without including “and if you don’t change this, Consequence X will happen.” (And then if it still continues after that, you can move to the “we talked about this — what am I missing?” conversation and, if necessary, talk to whoever does formally manage him, which might be his contracting agency.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Volunteering at a former job

I am in the midst of transitioning out of a job in the nonprofit sector, where I have been for the past 5+ years. I am excited about my new position (a nonprofit with a different focus area), but I am really going to miss the volunteers from my current job. Is it ever appropriate to leave a job and then come back as a volunteer on a monthly basis? I would love to keep seeing the folks I have gotten to know so well, but I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or have them wonder why I’m still coming around. If it is appropriate, I would still want to take a couple of months away to get settled in my new position — I don’t envision showing up next week and saying, “I’m back!”

You can if you want to. Unless you were really overbearing or difficult while you were there, it shouldn’t be weird and people will probably welcome your help.

But I would wait until you’ve been at your new job for a minimum of three or four months before you decide for sure. Don’t commit to anything now! The thing about staying involved with old jobs is that it can keep you mired in the old job’s politics and concerns. One of the great benefits of changing jobs is that you no longer have to care about issues at the old one! You don’t need to think one second longer about Jane’s overly passive management style or why Barry can’t plan correctly or Lucinda’s frustrations with Cecil. You get to just … not care.

Coming back as a volunteer instead of an employee, you won’t have to deal with those things as much — but because you’re already steeped in their set-up, you’re going to notice (and probably be stressed by) more than you would if you were brand new to the situation.

None of this means you shouldn’t do it. But give yourself a few months to enjoy a completely clean break before you decide.

{ 728 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 1, for what it is worth as someone who works in the management of data (and, increasingly, the management of privacy around data) I never never never put my full address on my resume. That passes through way too many hands to have that level of personal information. Creepers will creep and they don’t need my home address to make it easier for them to do so. City and State is fine going forward.

    1. Ye old*

      What I find weird is that why the interviewer would even need a printout of the photo in the folder? Like yeah maybe if you were snooping around, you’d Google Street View the address to look up the property, but to take the effort to download load the photo, print it out and file it? What purpose would it serve in an interview?

      1. Willis*

        It sounds like it was a photo from a real estate listing, maybe printed out to refer to later if they were indeed considering home value in developing a salary offer like Alison suggested. It’s an incredibly weird thing to do but that would be one reason to print it.

        I think it’s fine to not have an address on your resume, but if an employer was creepy and intent enough on finding out what you paid for your house, a lot of times that info is available from a tax assessors website by searching your name. Of course it would be harder without the address, especially if you have a common name and/or live in a bigger city. This is super weird though…unless it was a job I really wanted I might be inclined to ask why they had a photo of my house!

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It’s ridiculous. There’s only a loose correlation between home value, salary, and net worth.
          Not everyone overbuys on their house. They may choose to invest the money in mutual funds instead. Or perhaps the person inherited the house.
          It tells you nothing.

          1. PurpleMonster*

            Or in my area, we bought reasonably cheap but it’s nearly doubled in value in the last 5 years and there’s no way we could afford to buy it now. Partly the market and partly a ton of sweat equity.

              1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

                Yes! I was single and living in a 5 bedroom 5 bath house in the expensive part of town, so high end that people assumed I had money. Nope. I had 4 other housemates and sharing the rent got everyone a much better address than as a single person. The house didn’t reflect any of our financial worth.

                1. Antilles*

                  @WellRed: It’s actually entirely possible that sheworks was the owner of the house.
                  I had this arrangement for years – one of my friends bought a very nice house in an upscale neighborhood knowing that he’d always have 2-3 roommates. Worked out well for everyone: Each of us paid around $500/month in rent so we saved a ton of money (comparison: one-bedroom apartments start at $900/month), while he was able to buy way more house than he’d have been able to handle if he had to manage the whole monthly payment himself.
                  I moved out a few years ago when I got married, but last I heard, he still had the arrangement going strong with a few new friends. So for the first 10 years (and counting) of his 15-year mortgage, roommates have been paying the majority of his mortgage. Pretty nice deal, I’d say!

                2. Quill*

                  Oh gosh do you know anyone in a similar situation who wants a roommate? XD

                  (I joke but I am currently highly stressed by the fact that I need to find an apartment and I don’t do well living alone…)

              2. londonedit*

                A few years ago I was sharing a (rented) two-bed house with a friend. The house was in a very nice area and worth close to £1,000,000, which obviously neither of us could afford in a month of Sundays – which is why we were renting, and why we were in a houseshare situation. We’d often get what’s known in Britain as ‘chuggers’ (‘charity muggers’ – people employed by charities to stand on the street or go door-to-door trying to get people to sign up to a monthly donation) knocking on the door, and when we declined to sign up, more than one of them commented along the lines of ‘Huh, surely someone who lives HERE must be able to afford a few pounds a month for CHARITY’. It was, frankly, gross and none of their business.

            1. Cheesy*

              I live in an area with low housing prices, but work in an area with very high housing prices, and it’s under 30 minutes to get between the 2 towns. One of my employees bought a house in town and mentioned what he paid for it and it’s more than double the current appraised value of my home as well as being almost 1000 sq ft less living space with no basement and no garage.

              Shortly after I had bought my house I saw an article in the major metro news paper about a nasty apartment building that was “low income” and infested with cockroaches and it mentioned what rent was on one of the efficiency apartments they had, and it was more than my mortgage payment including escrow.

              Housing values can really change just by moving cities.

              1. Pretzelgirl*

                The absolutely can! A new build that has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in my town is about $300K (give or take). In the next town over its $150k.

                1. Lynn*

                  Agreed. There is a reason that we don’t live in the district where my husband teaches, but instead bought in our suburb about 20/30 minutes away. The price differences have only gotten worse since we bought (20+ years ago).

                2. Former Employee*

                  Depending on the neighborhood, that house in my city would cost over $1M.

                  And if you went to a coastal area, it might be more like $3M.

              2. TardyTardis*

                Or as I call it, the Indio Shuffle (In the Palm Springs area, everything is laid out on a straight string, yea verily, even to continuous numbers which makes things easy to find stuff). Palm Springs is spendy. Indio is not. The towns in between vary. Lots of the maids and gardeners and whatnot that keep the houses in Palm Springs looking good live in Indio.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Same here. Well, same with my parents’ house, which was worth far less 35 years ago. I live there with them but have no ownership of the place, so it would look as though I was a lot better off than I am.

              1. Artemesia*

                We have a 2000 apartment in a big city close to downtown — for half what we paid we could have a huge 4 bed 3 bath, nice yard place in the suburbs and so many people move out of the city when they have young families. We love living in the city but it is expensive; our monthly fee on a place we own would get a great apartment most places and a pretty good one here.

            3. Temperance*

              Yep. My house is worth a lot more than we paid. We bought a house that was ugly, terribly decorated/shabby, and smelled like cat pee and cigarette smoke. It was the only way we could afford a standalone home in our neighborhood. We paid under $200k when a comparable home with a similar lot size in decent shape would be worth about double.

            4. AKchic*

              I am renting a house a helluva lot cheaper than people think. If it were modernized, it would rent for another $700-1000/mo. And when we snapped it up, it had sat for 6 months unrented, so we got another $400/mo off the rent, so we are getting an excellent deal in an amazing neighborhood (seriously, some of the houses go for over a million dollars with ocean views).

              BUT – people will look up my address because my address does legitimately look like a prank address (it looks like a pot joke). We’ve had so many food delivery places hang up on us and online vendors refuse service because of it.
              “420 High Blah blah blah blah….”
              “No, really”
              “Yes, really”
              Sometimes they hang up. Sometimes they don’t.

          2. Herding Butterflies*

            And we bought a house much more modest than we can “afford” as we plan to pay it off in the next five years.

          3. Dagny*

            They could be renters (although that shows up if you do a search on the Registry of Deeds). Maybe they have renters and that helps with the mortgage.

            Maybe their in-laws own it.

            Maybe it was gifted to them.

            Maybe they are living there while waiting for the right opportunity to get rid of the white elephant and downsize.

          4. Nobby Nobbs*

            Or they rent, or live with their folks, or rent out a room or two. There are so many reasons a person’s home may not reflect their actual financials.

          5. Vicky Austin*

            If someone were to determine my wealth based on a Google Maps photo of my house, they’d think I was a lot wealthier than I actually am. My husband and I bought the house using money he had inherited from a deceased loved one, and it was just before the housing market crash in 2008. There’s no way we’d be able to afford the house today, even with the inheritance.

          6. Doc in a Box*


            My department chair has to do fund-raising for the department, and one of his strategies is to google patients’ home address and see if it looks fancy or not. Apparently he slept through the decades-long recession caused by people overleveraging themselves to buy McMansions on spec.

        2. Mookie*

          Oh god, I really hope that’s not the motivation behind finding and then printing the listing.

        3. MK*

          What baffles me is the reasoning behind trying to base salary negotiation on a candidate’s perceived financial situation. Just because someone might not need the money (and the house they live in is not a good way to measure that) does not mean they are willing to work for peanuts; undervaluing your services is usually a bad career move, even if you don;t need the money. And someone who is not absolutely depending on their paycheck is in a better position to refuse a salary that is too low.

          1. March*

            Yeah, you’d think that people with an expensive house DO need the money to keep paying for that expensive house!

            1. Auntie Social*

              “I’m so glad you have a photo of my house—as you can see it needs a new roof!”

          2. MarsJenkar*

            I find it baffling too. The “logic” ignores the possibility that their financial situation *was* better at one point, but things have gone downhill for them recently. Or perhaps they inherited the house from a richer relative but still need a decent steady income. Or they room with other people (as suggested elsewhere). I could go on, but bottom line is, there are too many plausible explanations for the nice house that don’t translate to “they’re financially secure and don’t really need the money”.

          3. Wild Bluebell*

            “And someone who is not absolutely depending on their paycheck is in a better position to refuse a salary that is too low.”

            This. If I don’t really _need_ a job, I’ll only accept a really good job offer.

      2. Autumnheart*

        And what the heck else does that person have files on? What happens if you GET the job? Suddenly you’re working for J. Edgar Hoover?

        As I said in a previous post about internet privacy, googling things is fine. Taking action on what you find is sketch.

      3. Jennifer*

        I’m guessing the interviewer was a little older. Some people just print out everything when there’s no need so they can file it away.

        1. Autumnheart*

          The leading edge of Generation X is in their 50s. I’m in my mid-40s and I assure you that computers have been a thing since I started college in 1991. And on reflection, while the ease of networking devices and connecting to a printer has improved by orders of magnitude since then, the actual process of bringing up a document and printing it has *barely* changed in decades. The way we use a web browser has barely changed. Google’s been a thing for 20 years. MS Office is still ubiquitous. Even the Print and Save icons are the same. If someone isn’t tech-savvy in the workplace in 2019, it’s not because of their age. I think it’s time to retire that justification.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’m 40. I am Gen X. I know how long computers have been a thing. I still know plenty of people in their 50’s and older who print everything.

            1. Quill*

              My mom (54) does this because she doesn’t want to boot up the computer to look for something. Questions of “is your laptop on? Can you print this recipe?” have consistently been met with “in what circumstances, other than when I’m asleep, is my laptop NOT on?”

              1. Jennifer*

                Yeah it’s not really a matter of not being “tech savvy.” It’s just a different attitude toward technology.

                1. Quill*

                  Plus, she’s taught for 15 years, there is legitimately little role for technology in about 70% of her job related duties because she should be hands on with the kids, who are doing most of their work on paper. (And there’s pretty much no benefit to non-coding “technology” classes for kids at the age she teaches because everything will have changed before they hit high school anyway. Teach them safety, boundaries, and how things work, not cutesy applications! Do, however, allow them to practice math in the guise of a video game.)

              1. Risha*

                And they also did it while they were in their 20s back in the 90s. It was just a lot more reasonable at the time (since websites were SO. SLOW. to load and a lot of the time you were blocking the phone).

              2. pleaset*

                For me it has to do with my eyesight.

                I printed stuff when in my 30s at the turn of the century because monitors sucked.

                I print stuff now in my 50s because my eyesight is not great.

                So yeah, in my case age has something to do with printing stuff, but not in the sense of that I’m old and haven’t used computers. I hhad my first computer in college in the 80s.

              3. Autumnheart*

                I have one coworker who prints a lot of her work. She’s an editor, and for projects with multiple versions and a lot of legalese, she finds that she is much more efficient when she can compare stuff side-by-side in print, than toggling back and forth between windows.

                Meanwhile, I’m HP’s worst nightmare because I never print. The last time I printed even one page was about a year ago. My home printer hasn’t seen action since the election.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Same here. I didn’t know where the printer was at my job when I finally did have the need to print something after nearly a year.

            2. Librarian1*

              I’m in my mid-30s and I print more thins than a lot of people my age do. I also prefer to read books on paper than on my Kindle. That’s because starting screens, especially small ones that I have to bend my neck down to see cause me to get migraines. So, shrug.

              Also, in the case of an interview, I feel like it would come across as kind of rude to be checking your computer or phone the entire time, but it’s not rude to be checking a resume you printed out or whatever. So the person may have printed it out so they could look at it inconspicuously during the interview.

              1. Jennifer*

                If staring at screens causes migraines, then you have a need to print things rather than read them on screens. My comment wouldn’t apply in this situation. I was referring to people who print when there is no need.

            3. Ellen*

              49 years old. Have had access to computers in my home since the apple II. I prefer to work with paper because I can add notes to margins, but worry about spilling shit, or hope for enough battery power or wi-fi. My printed out files cant be erased or changed without me noticing, and you wont access that data without my permission. I dont print everything, but these are the considerations involved for when I do.

              1. Jennifer*

                This isn’t about older people not being able to use computers, but about how people relate differently to technology depending on when they became computer literate. As I said below, I’ve noticed that people who first started using computers in the 80’s and 90’s tend to print more. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t tech savvy.

              2. TardyTardis*

                By cracky, I made do with Word Writer 3 on the Commodore 64 (anyone but me remember playing Red Dragon on a BBS?).

          2. ErinFromAccounting*

            It’s super common for older people in the workplace to print everything. My last boss wanted everything in paper… if she was approving someone’s expense report, she’d want it printed out from Concur, brought to her to look over and sign, and then the accountant would have to go into Concur to approve it as an administrator (and file away the paper approval for audit purposes). Sigh.

            1. Jennifer*

              When we had a meeting with a power point presentation, which everyone was sent by email, there was a manager that would print out dozens of copies and pass them out to everyone thinking he was being super helpful. Save some trees, dude. Double sigh.

          3. Kevin*

            Conversely I think some people like being technophobic or regress to it. My mom worked in an office her whole life. She used a computer and email daily before my dad did. I remember her upgrading our computer from Windows 3.1 to 95 and setting us up with MSN. She was technically literate! But now she’s in her mid-60s and she calls me to help her login to Netflix or changed something small on her phone. I feel like the mom who upgraded Windows should know how to do this but more and more she’s acting like a confused old lady with technology. She’s my mom so I gladly help but just seems like she is willfully getting worse at using technology.

            1. emmelemm*

              Ugh, also my mom. She was never great with technology, but she worked in an office and used Word and Excel and did email and stuff. But now even Gmail befuddles her at times. (Conversations! Where more than one email rolls up together! Oh my!) And she’s not really in cognitive decline around anything else at all – JUST technology.

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I’ve been using computers since MS DOS, and I think some of it is just burnout on learning new ways to do stuff. I spent a lot of time tinkering in the DOS and Windows 3.1 era, figuring out all kinds of neat stuff. I’ve had gradually less enthusiasm for figuring things out all over again each time since. I think it’s because I’ve seen how often it changes and so I’ll never actually master it and be done with it . No matter how well I learn to use something, if it’s something I don’t need all the time the odds are it will work differently by the next time I need to use it anyway. Learning to use something well feels really unrewarding when it changes, and I’ve just been through too many cycles of that by this point.

              For a petty example, I haven’t actually bothered to figure out how to make my current phone make noise rather than vibrate, since it came set on vibrate and that’s what I want it on about 95% of the time anyway. I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to figure out compared to, say, writing a .bat file, but I just don’t have the interest in exploring how stuff like that works for its own sake anymore. (If I really need to make my phone make noise when someone is calling or texting me, I’ll figure it out then.)

            3. TardyTardis*

              And here I am delighted I can use Office 365 to convert a word doc to a pdf without having to pay an arm and a leg for Acrobat…

          4. Eukomos*

            My boss is in her seventies (no one retires around here) and still handles computers like it’s the 90s. She does that thing where she prints out emails to save them. We have an entire bookcase of white binders, which no one else in the office uses or can find anything in, but that’s her workflow. Now, I do know people in theirs seventies who are much better with computers than she is, so this isn’t entirely due to her age, but being in workforce in the 80s and 90s is why she developed these habit and she just never transitioned to a modern relationship with computers, so you can’t really say it’s not related to her age.

          5. Kelly*

            As someone who works in a library, we still have older patrons, mostly community, that prefer to make copies, requiring a copy card, rather than scan, which is free. I helped one patron today who insisted that our copier was malfunctioning because the pages she wanted copied were too large for the glass. After trying multiple times to show her that what she wanted done wasn’t possible for nearly 10 minutes, and her insisting that she had done it before, she finally decided to go with my suggestion of scanning the pages and having the scans sent to her email. I explained to her that scanning was a free service and that she could view the pages on any device and print them off at her convenience.

            I’m sure she’ll forget the next time she comes in and repeat the same unsuccessful process, but I did my best to try to help her.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I think you cross the line into both ageism and ableism by saying there’s “no need” to print things. Some things are easier to read and more accessible on paper.

          1. Sabina*

            This^^. Also, I lived for many years in a rural area where cell service, internet, and even electricity were sketchy and often non-operational. I’d print out vital information so I could access it when needed despite technology issues.

            1. pancakes*

              Sure, but a photo of a job candidate’s house isn’t vital information in any sense, and talking about why people print things doesn’t even begin to account for why it was in the interviewer’s folder. The question isn’t what do we think of this use of paper but what do we think of this being part of the interview process.

          2. Jennifer*

            If they have a need due to a health issue or disability, then they have a need. That wouldn’t apply to what I said. I think this is crossing into performative wokeness.

        3. Justme, The OG*

          I’m in my 30s and I print everything. Let’s not make this an “old people use paper” kind of thing.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The fact that he printed it out is not the weird part. I’ve been participating in hiring decisions for years, and it has never once occurred to me to look at pictures of candidates’ homes. It’s not information he needs to make a hiring decision. He’s doing way too much, and I would not want to work for someone who thinks that’s okay.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’m not saying printing things in general is weird. I’m not sure where some people are getting that. To me, people who print everything tend to be people who became computer literate in the 80’s and 90’s. Someone was asking why the interviewer printed it and put it in her file.

        5. nancy*

          The weird part isn’t that it was printed out, lots of people of all ages print things for various reasons.

          The weird part was that it was of the OP’s home.

          1. Jennifer*

            Both things are weird. Looking up her home is weird, but then he upped the weirdness quotient by printing it out and filing it.

        6. Jennifer*

          Just to clarify – if you print because you have a health issue, then you have a need to print documents. My comment doesn’t apply to you.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            “Need” doesn’t exist as an objective category with set criteria independent of the person doing the printing. Why do you seem so convinced that it is possible to distinguish between someone having (your construct of) a legitimate reason to print and someone waste of resources? Isn’t it enough to assume that, if a person has printed a document, they have need of a printed copy for reasons they consider legitimate?

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I would flag this on glass door. JMO, but if a situation sounds like the opening scene of a scary movie, other people need to know what happened.

      1. pancakes*


        Not only is it creepy, it’s a very poorly conceived way to think about setting salaries, for reasons others have pointed out—maybe the house in inherited, bigger houses cost more to maintain, etc. Whether this is company-wide practice or something one interviewer decided to do, it’s something job candidates should know about.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      OP#1: Well, that’s creepy. Another thing you could do is call the interviewer out on it. With a surprised tone smile and say something like “oh, is that a printout of my house? What is that for?” Intrusive people deserved to be called on their crap.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Oh, and have an incredulous look on your face with any answer they provide. If you’re feeling particularly snarky that day, even come back with “that’s interesting. I’ve never had that happen in an interview before.”

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      My address in the US, and on my current resumes, is a PO Box.

      It’s fine to walk out of this application with the feedback that image-googling your house passes a limit in privacy and personal safety, no, thanks.

    5. New Job So Much Better*

      But can’t you find just about anyone’s home address on line these days anyway?

      1. EPLawyer*

        Doesn’t matter. If someone goes to the lengths of googling to find out the home address of an interviewee (not an employee) and then prints a picture of the house, that’s creepy. Just because the information is out there doesn’t make it okay for people to look it up for the heck of it.

        1. Gymmie*

          Also, even if you are being creepy curious on your own, in no way should your creeping appear in an employment document!

        2. Snickerdoodle*

          Yeah. It’s not Googling to see if they’re actually local or what kind of commute they’re looking at, it’s the screenshot and printout that creeps me out. I mean WHY. There is no answer that isn’t inappropriate in some way.

      2. Antilles*

        Sure. Especially for a homeowner, all you need is their name and you can pull up the County/City Tax Assessor’s website and get basically all the public records of their house on the spot. But the follow-up question (as Ye Old noted above) is “What’s the point?” What does this tell an interviewer that matters in their decision?
        Basically, it’s the same as the discussion last week about searching people online: All because the information is available doesn’t mean it has any relevance to your hiring decisions.

      3. Triplestep*

        Yes, you can find many homeowners’ addresses online anyway. If someone wants to research you, they don’t need your address to appear on your resume.

        1. Gaia*

          To clarify, you can only find the address of the property they own – which is not always their residence.

          1. Triplestep*

            In my state (and in many others) you can find people by their voter records, so you find them listed by whatever place of residence they listed when they registered to vote, or moved to a new voting district. This information often contains cell phone number, and always includes party affiliation.

            And this does not include the many other things (some accurate, some not) that can be ascertained by a deep enough google search.

        2. pancakes*

          That’s not correct for many millions of us who live in cities and rent. Even with an address, there are lots & lots of buildings that have market rent and subsidized tenants who pay considerably less living in them. All the more reason looking at an address is a lousy way to try guess at someone’s financial situation.

          1. Triplestep*

            My point was not about what people can figure out about your income – my point was that people can find out all sorts of stuff about you via Google or other online search, and the lack of address on your resume is not going to deter them.

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Sure you can. I often need to confirm whether or not a candidate is local because we don’t offer relocation, or the role is not remote, or suchlike.

        But I do not need the candidate’s specific address. And I most certainly do not need to know what their house looks like, nor their property value. The interviewer overstepped bounderies, and likely for no legally defensible reason.

        1. diner lobster*

          Technically you don’t need to know that because of lack-of-relocation or non-remote work–you just need to let the candidate know that these policies are in place and non-negotiable. If they want to move on their own dime, they should not be taken out of the running because you don’t believe them.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Well, no. That’s not ‘technically’ true. I think you’re conflating an initial applicant review with an interview. As an employer, or in my case a corporate staffing partner, it’s legally defensible to find out a candidate’s geography. The OFCCP allows geography to be an element of review, as long as it’s consistent.

            If a candidate’s cover letter says, ‘I’m not local but I’m moving there anyway/open to relo on my own dime,’ that’s a different scenario.

              1. diner lobster*

                how would you consistently apply it? if someone is located elsewhere and doesn’t mention their willingness to move, they get screened out; if someone is located elsewhere and does mention their willingness to move, they may move ahead in the process. unless the posting says “please mention in your cover letter whether or not you are willing to relocate to the job site without reimbursement, if needed based on your current location”…you are giving some people an advantage based on an arbitrary measure of whether they included a specific, un-asked-for fact in their cover letter.

                Obviously the topic has been covered pretty well and it’s not super necessary to keep perseverating, I just wish the bias in resume review based on location was something companies would reconsider.

            1. lulu*

              diner lobster did not say it was illegal, just that it is something you don’t “need” to know if you communicate to candidates that you will not be providing relocation. I understand your policy is different, which is fine.

            2. diner lobster*

              It’s frustrating to see that the standard being applied here is “legally defensible” or not. Fine, it’s legal to make determinations of whether someone should move forward in the process based on their current location. I still think the hiring organization is already at so much of a power differential relative to the applicant that it’s not very nice to do things this way.

            3. Engineer Girl*

              It’s still silly. Put the requirements out there in bold print. Allow the candidates to self select.

            4. Librarian1*

              Right, if you say in the job listing that remote work and relocation aren’t available, people will self-select out.

            5. TootsNYC*

              why would you not assume that, if a candidate is applying at your company, they are in essence saying “I’m not local, but I’ll move for the job”?

              And if you like them, during the first interview, you say “If you’re out of town, you should know that we don’t offer relocation assistance.”
              Or put it in the ad!

              (if people are including the city and state, that’s all you need in order to tell people, “we don’t offer relocation–are you still interested?” If they don’t give that, then you can just tell all people who make it past the screen, “we don’t offer relo.”)

              1. TootsNYC*

                maybe it’s just that I’ve never worked in a place or a field where a company would pay you money to move there.

                If I were applying from out of town, and it actually mattered to me in terms of my interested, I’d absolutely ask before I spent my energy traveling for an interview!

                And if you don’t pay for me to travel for an interview, I’m going to assume you won’t pay for relocation.

    6. diner lobster*

      To what extent do you need to be honest here, then? Could you just put the target city/state if you’re planning to move so they don’t question whether you’re truly committed to their city?

      1. Gaia*

        You could and plenty of people do. However you want to be upfront about that when interviewing otherwise they may call you for an interview on somewhat short notice and be unpleasantly surprised that you need time to arrange travel.

      2. Dagny*

        If you’re moving to be close to family or a significant other, you can put their address on there: “It’s where I will be living when I move.”

    7. Snickerdoodle*

      This freaked me out so much I instantly updated my resume to remove the address. OP, I really hope you have home security in place. If you don’t, please look into it. This has “stalker looking for his next target” written all over it.

      1. Colette*

        That’s an overreaction. I doubt stalkers start planning who they’re going to stalk before they meet the person.

        1. Nephron*

          Off topic I know, but yes many stalkers do target people they do not know. The many famous people that have been targeted by people who don’t know them show that. This website had a letter from a librarian that was a voice actor dealing with a stalker the LW had not met before they showed up at her work.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            I think Colette’s just saying that the stalker typically has to have some kind of contact (voice, smell, visual) in order to develop the stalking attraction for them, whether or not they actually look them in the eye and shake hands. They don’t hunt for new victims like wolves do. To Colette’s point, I agree that’s incredibly unlikely here.

          2. carrots and celery*

            Stalking a famous public figure like a celebrity is very different from some rando choosing to stalk another rando they’ve never met. With celebrities, there’s usually a different motivation going on and it’s more common than it is between two strangers.

          3. Vicky Austin*

            People who stalk celebrities usually haven’t met their victims in real life; but they most definitely know who their victims are. Most stalkers, due to mental illness, believe they actually have some kind of relationship or connection with their victims, even when they don’t.

        2. Snickerdoodle*

          There have been plenty of letters on this site alone that have dealt with creepy interviewer behavior, like the interviewer wanting to ask out the interviewee or otherwise throwing up red flags. They aren’t looking to stalk specifically per se, but they’re definitely behaving really inappropriately and treating a business transaction in an overly personal way.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I get resumes without a city or state at all.
      People live in all kinds of states and still work in NYC.

      Sometimes I worry, will they be able to get to work, but it generally doesn’t stop me from interviewing them if I like their credentials. Once we’ve spoken, then I say, “will you have any trouble getting to the office each day? I notice you didn’t put a town.”

      It’s just not important info for me, what neighborhood they live in, and it can lead to racial and economic discrimination (“ooh, do I really want to hire someone from Brownsville?”)

      1. DreamingInPurple*

        I’m really surprised that yours is the only comment I’ve found so far (sorry if I missed someone else’s!) that mentions discrimination based on the employer’s preconceptions of a given area rather than just salary-related screwiness. It was my very first thought.

  2. formerairlineemployee*

    Sort of related note on the address thing — I worked in customer service for an airline while I was finishing my degree some years ago, and whenever someone would call in and make particularly crazy demands, talk down to me (someone once gave me their email address that ended with .edu and said ‘that stands for education’) or generally act like they were an A-list celebrity or fortune 500 CEO, I would do a quick Google search of their home address from their reservation or mileage account just to see what I was actually dealing with. It always made me feel a lot better.

    I know Allison said this is creepy behavior, but I do not regret for a second the peace of mind those searches provided. :)

    1. Ginger ale for all*

      I have always had an edu email address and way back when, there were websites and businesses who would refuse to take it because they thought it was a fake address that I was submitting. Perhaps that person had run into that one too many times?

      1. Linguist*

        That or… to give you an instant spelling aid? A bit like people who say “I live in Cinnamon Rd, yes, like the spice.” So the other person doesn’t go for S-E-N-A…

        Apparently I’m having a benefit-of-the-doubt day. :)

      2. Cheesy*

        Back when Facebook was still in it’s toddler stages and you NEEDED a .edu email address to sign up practically. I still remember being a bit miffed when they started letting high school students sign up because it had been nice when it was college students only.

      3. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I remember there were websites in the 1990s that wouldn’t accept orders or registrations from free email addresses like Yahoo, Hotmail, etc (this was long before Gmail) – the thinking was that someone using their work or ISP email account usually had their real name tied to it, and it was pretty easy to create a throwaway account on Hotmail. I had a .edu account at that time, and never had a problem.

    2. Hotel GM*

      I occasionally do this too. Sort of a judgement thing on if the guest who’s being an a-hole to me lives in a better or worse neighborhood than I do.

    3. anonagain*

      I’m not sure I follow. How does googling someone’s home address tell you what you’re actually dealing with?

      I do hear that those searches gave you peace of mind and I’m wondering what worry they addressed.

      1. Hotel GM*

        Determining if the person you’re dealing with is actually upper class enough to be as big of a-holes as they’re acting or not

        1. Emily K*

          I’m genuinely confused here -are you saying that if you find out someone is upper class it excuses them being an a-hole, but if they’re lower class they have no excuse?

          My experience is customer service jobs was that someone was never too rich or too poor to be a jerk to me.

          1. StudentPilot*

            I think it’s more of a “do you have the means to back up your attitude?” not an excuse.

            Kind of like the “get off my foot” analogy – you may have a foot stepping disease, but you still need to get off my foot. Same thing here – you may have money that makes you think you can be an a**hole to everyone around you, but you still need to be polite to people.

          2. Bostonian*

            I got the sense it wasn’t to excuse the a holes but to laugh at the people who thought they were hot shit.

          3. Moray*

            I imagine I would probably be less likely to stick my neck out to please someone if I knew they were super privileged and didn’t need a cancellation fee or whatever removed and just wanted special treatment. Whereas if I suspected money was truly tight for someone, I might feel more inclined to be accommodating.

          4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s because the person was doing the “don’t you know who I am? I’m important in this town!” Kind of thing. Not just being a demanding jerk necessarily but one who throws around their status. So googling their home to see if they can really back their ego up or are just some casual nobody puffing up their chest.

            If someone insists on adding MD to their signature in an email and getting cranky over not being addressed as doctor, I google to see what they do. I’ve never had a practicing doctor throw that around. I’m not calling you doctor until you’re a practicing physician.

      2. Det. Charles Boyle*

        Maybe it’s to see if she had anything to worry about, if they lived close by and might come in person to assault her? Otherwise, I don’t get it, either.

        1. EmKay*

          I think it’s to see if the person has enough clout to get her fired from her job if they complain about her service (unjustly or not).

          1. Valprehension*

            I mean, I feel like clout is more easily measured by googling someone’s name than their address, so probably not…

      3. formerairlineemployee*

        I grew up with a dad who was an SVP for a major corporation and then founded one of the largest biotech manufacturing companies in the US, which I only mention for context to explain that working for the airline was the first time I’d ever had anyone really talk down to me at a job or resort to belligerent personal abuse when they got an answer they didn’t want, usually involving whatever they perceived my societal status or education level to be. I wasn’t used to being treated this way and took it way too personally. I found a lot of the interactions so upsetting and draining that I was at a loss and thought I just needed to quit.
        I remember my dad telling me ‘you are a professional on a business call; if someone wouldn’t react to a colleague relaying inconvenient news to them that way, they shouldn’t treat you that way. You need to lead the call and show them how the interaction is going to go.’ This made sense to me and I became pretty skilled at diffusing high tension calls into friendly and professional interactions.
        So when I had someone who refused to engage with me in a professional way even after I tried all of my tricks to change the tone of the call or got really personal and abusive in a derogatory way and I found the call hard to recover from, sometimes the Googling of their house helped me put into perspective that we were both just people, they were generally no better off than I was and whatever power dynamic they wanted me to participate in with them was their issue and not reality. :) (I know this logic isn’t perfect but it helped me at the time.)

    4. Master Bean Counter*

      You know that people with money may actually live in houses way below their means. It’s how I afford all the travel I do. And now I’m happy I live in a PO Box area so rando people I deal with can’t google my house with out great effort.

  3. GS*

    I’m in healthcare, and if you smoke, you pay a lot more for health insurance. A LOT – about $50 a month. It’s very upfront in the hiring process, so no surprises. We’re also upfront that there is absolutely no smoking anywhere on the property, even in your car. It’s a hospital, so very important for patients’ health (and oxygen being used etc). I think it’s great – I don’t want to pay more in health insurance to cover smokers and I don’t really want our hospital having smoky nurses and techs attending to patients.

    1. Seal*

      At my last job, every year during open enrollment you had to check a box stating that you were not a smoker or you would be charged an extra $50 a month. So it’s definitely a thing.

        1. Anon for this one*

          At my employer, non-smokers pay no premiums. Smokers pay premiums – lowest one is $250/month for high deductible plan. While I think smoking is super unhealthy and does contribute to sicknesses, it really isn’t fair to single smokers out. Plenty of people eat fast food for every meal, and they aren’t penalized.

          1. E*

            A valid point to a degree. Except smoking definitely does affect the health of other people (i.e. coworkers) besides the smoker, fast food less so.

            1. Beth*

              Very much so! I’m violently allergic to cigarette and cigar smoke, enough so that the smell on smokers’ clothing can make me sick. At my present job, none of my colleagues smoke, and I am truly grateful for this.

              At one of my earlier jobs, the manager smoked in her office, even though our building was non-smoking and the entire shop could have been completely and permanently evicted from the building if she had been caught by the building management. She thought it was a secret, but I could tell, three rooms away, every time she lit up.

                1. Mona Lisa*

                  A professor in a department I worked for a couple of years ago used to smoke a pipe in his office occasionally. He was in his 70s, and it was terrible. The smell stunk up the whole floor of the building, which was connected to the university hospital and included some doctors’ offices. People had said things to him, but he just didn’t care.

            2. Spek*

              That’s a common fallacy. There has never been an accepted, published, peer reviewed study that showed that second-hand smoke is harmful. Disgusting? – yes (I”m a non-smoker). Annoying? – definitely. Harmful? – maybe; after a whole lot of effort, yet to be proven.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.1,2,3,4

                Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke.1,/em>

                This is from the CDC website.

                One of its citations is The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General

                1. Legal Beagle*

                  There is also “thirdhand smoke,” which is the residue that lingers on clothing, curtains, upholstery, etc. It’s not a significant issue for adults (AFAIK) but it’s quite unhealthy for babies and young children.

                2. Spek*

                  That’s a Surgeon General’s report, NOT a scientific study. The Surgeon General is a political appointee, and with the exception of Koop, generally works to reinforce the current administration’s public health policies.

              2. justanobody*

                Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year. Between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the 2014 report from the U.S. Surgeon General.

              3. Det. Charles Boyle*

                The CDC says secondhand smoke harmful, so I’m going to go with that.
                “Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
                Google “Is secondhand smoke harmful” and you’ll see tons of information about it.

              4. OhBehave*

                My daughter gets migraines when she encounters smokers, whether actively smoking or have smoked recently. Harmful.
                All of us siblings are highly prone to bronchial infections. Parents smoked forever. Harmful.
                Husband has asthma attacks when encountering active smokers. Harmful.
                CDC and the American Cancer Society would disagree with your opinion.

              5. Michaela Westen*

                I read a study in Annals of Allergy a few months ago about the effect of smoking on pregnancy.
                It had patients who smoke and patients who don’t smoke but live with smokers in the same category. Something must have been proven somewhere, because smoking and passive smoking used to be separate categories.
                Sorry I don’t have time to track it down. Try the Annals of Allergy site.

              6. Aspie AF*

                I googled “secondhand smoke study” and this is from the second result (Epidemiologic Studies of Secondhand-Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Disease – NCBI book NBK219560):

                “Many prospective cohort studies and case–control studies have examined the association between exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of coronary heart disease (Butler, 1988; Chen et al., 2004; Ciruzzi et al., 1998; Dobson et al., 1991; Garland et al., 1985; He, 1989; He et al., 1994; Helsing et al., 1988; Hole et al., 1989; Humble et al., 1990; Jackson, 1989; Kawachi et al., 1997; La Vecchia et al., 1993; Layard, 1995; Lee et al., 1986; LeVois and Layard, 1995; McElduff et al., 1998; Muscat and Wynder, 1995; Pitsavos et al., 2002; Rosenlund et al., 2001; Sandler et al., 1989; Steenland et al., 1996; Svendsen et al., 1987; Tunstall-Pedoe et al., 1995; Whincup et al., 2004). They all showed a trend toward increased risk of coronary heart disease associated with secondhand smoke; most but not all of the relative risk (RR) estimates in individual studies were statistically significant. Several published meta-analyses of the epidemiologic studies pooled RR estimates from individual studies and showed a significant 25–30% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease associated with various exposures to secondhand smoke (Barnoya and Glantz, 2005; He et al., 1999; HHS, 2006; Law et al., 1997; Thun et al., 1999; Wells, 1994, 1998). Two recent and comprehensive meta-analyses are particularly worthy of mention (He et al., 1999; HHS, 2006).”

                The 33 studies mentioned are evidently accepted and published, presumably peer reviewed.

              7. Librarian of SHIELD*

                The reason there’s never been a peer reviewed study is that such a study would require purposefully exposing people to secondhand smoke, and medical experts are confident enough in it’s potential to harm people that such purposeful exposure would be unethical.

                I have asthma. Secondhand smoke is one of my strongest triggers, and if I’m in close proximity to a smoker for long enough, I WILL have an attack, and I might need to be hospitalized. Smoking is absolutely harmful to the non-smokers who are exposed to it, and you should stop trying to claim that it’s not.

              8. Botanist*

                My toddler has had multiple respiratory illnesses and every time we’ve taken him to the doctor, one of the first questions they ask is if anyone in the home smokes. This would greatly increase his risk of complications and his risk of developing asthma.
                Also, sleeping in the same bed as an adult who smokes is one of the factors that creates an unsafe cosleeping environment for an infant and increases the risk of SIDS.

          2. Name Required*

            Smoking is an addiction, and it’s a very difficult habit to curb — it’s not fair to say it’s just a “choice”, but it’s not the same as eating food. Eating is a requirement of life, and fast food can be eaten in moderation without adverse effect to health. There is no amount of smoking that is healthy.

            1. Gaia*

              Eating choices also do not impact the people in your vicinity. Smoking does. Second hand smoke is a serious health risk and there is more and more emerging research that third hand smoke is dangerous as well.

            1. Det. Charles Boyle*

              In your opinion. In my opinion, I think it’s fair. I don’t want to be around people who smoke and if these measures encourage them to quit, than I’m all for them.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Also if smokers weren’t charged more, we would all be paying higher premiums to cover them.

                1. The Jones*

                  Correct, there are 3 states and DC that don’t account for a difference in smokers and non smokers in the individual market health plans. And prices there are typically a bit higher than in other states.

                2. Librarian1*

                  Yeah, but you’re paying higher premiums to cover all sorts of things that are “choices.” That’s a silly argument.

              2. Jadelyn*

                My question is, does the company in any other way support smokers who want to quit? Do they offer fully-subsidized group therapy/classes supporting those who are trying to quit? Pay for nicotine patches/gum? Give people time off to attend therapy or classes without requiring them to use PTO?

                Because if they don’t, then they’re not “encouraging people to quit”. They’re just punishing them.

                1. Delphine*

                  Yep. But people are fairly accepting of practices that punish people struggling with addictions.

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  This. Raising The financial burden for smokers doesn’t cure them from being addicted to nicotine. If we’re serious about wanting people to stop smoking (or engaging in other forms of addiction), we need to give them easy, affordable, non-shaming access to the tools they need to quit.

                3. Drewsky*

                  The motivation to curb smoking doesn’t have to be a moral one. It is an increased expense to the company and to the employees.

                4. TootsNYC*

                  or, maybe they’re requiring them to contribute more (financially) to a system that they are more likely to end up using.

                  Sort of like, if you own a wooden building, you pay more in fire insurance premiums than if you own a steel one. Because you’re more likely to utilize the insurance.

                  If you’re male and under 25, you pay more for car insurance, because statistically you’re more likely to have an accident.

                5. Helena*

                  In this case, someone using patches or gum would still be charged the premium, because their blood would test positive for nicotine.

                6. Anon for this one*

                  Actually, they do offer really good smoking cessation incentives. Free evaluations, patches, counseling, etc. as well as money if they are successful.

                  What I should have said about singling out just smokers (not because I think it’s because they can cause issues in other people….of course it does) is that I am 100% sure it’s because it’s an easy target to hit. Yes, smoking is not healthy, but neither is drinking to excess, not exercising, driving without a seatbelt, eating tons of fast food, etc. (not fat shaming, plenty of people eat lots of fast food and are thin as rails, but end up with gall bladder issues at an early age, which was rare in the past). My point was that we ALL do shit we shouldn’t that jeopardizes our health and probably makes insurance companies have to pay out. Smokers shouldn’t have fewer benefits just because they smoke.

          3. Jadelyn*

            …oh, for fuck’s sake. Can we not with the equivalencies between being fat and smoking? Being fat is not inherently unhealthy, being thin doesn’t guarantee you’re any healthier, and there’s an increasing body of evidence suggesting that body weight is not nearly so controllable as the diet industry would like you to think it is, so it’s neither a ~~lifestyle choice~~ nor inherently harmful in the same way smoking is.

            Besides, what does this even add to the conversation…?

            1. Drewski*

              Not sure why you are singling me out but I did not start any comparison between smokers and overweight people, or make any claims about weight and health. I was replying to a comment that did. And what I had to add to the conversation was “The reason smokers are singled out here, among other lifestyle choices, is that the insurance carriers are legally allowed to do so.”

              If you read the comment chain you will see the context for that. And if you think that “big diet” is the only reason people think being overweight is unhealthy, you are delusional. Having been heavy, and thin, I don’t need anyone to tell me which is better for me.

              1. Jadelyn*

                And in your comment, you’re putting “being overweight” in the same “lifestyle choices” category as smoking. I saw plenty of context for it, I still didn’t see a reason not to note what you were doing. “Well they said it first!” does not absolve you.

                Also, please refrain from personal attacks such as calling people “delusional” here. That’s unnecessarily rude and aggressive. There’s, as I said, a growing body of evidence showing that being fat is not inherently unhealthy – that even in cases where there’s CORRELATION between fat and poor health, it’s never been isolated and demonstrated to be a CAUSAL relationship, and it’s quite likely that a third factor is causing both of those things to appear together, like stress, poor sleep, or something else entirely. Science flat out does not support the assertion that being fat is inherently unhealthy, so if that’s the case, who else might have a vested interest in telling us that…? Perhaps the diet industry? I fail to see how looking at the science and then comparing that to cultural influences makes me “delusional”.

              2. Drewsk*

                Read the comment chain please. I was point out a FACT about obesity that was misunderstood in the original comment (they were comparing it to smoking, not me) and its consequences in the insurance industry. Overweight, higher life insurance premiums. That is all. Not demonizing obesity or making any claims about it. Take it up with the insurance industry if you want their rates to change.

                If you want to read something unnecessary and rude.. read your initial comment to me again.

            2. Drewsk*

              “The reason smokers are singled out here, among other lifestyle choices, is that the insurance carriers are legally allowed to do so”

              I didnt make any claims about weight and health, but was responding to someone who did.


          4. The Jones*

            And for certain health plans, people above a certain weight limit/BMI will be denied outright.

      1. Cheesy*

        My last job had that as well but per check (bi-weekly) not per month. We did all of our enrollment through our website and the “non-smoking” was default NOT checked, even if you had checked it the year before. We were warned repeatedly that even if you weren’t changing anything you still needed to go in and verify everything.

        Inevitably, every year we had at least one person who didn’t do it and got locked in as a “smoker” even though they didn’t actually smoke and had to pay that $50/check for a year.

        They also warned that if you checked it as a non-smoker and were caught smoking by HR or upper management, you would get dinged in the system and have to back-pay the $50/check for every pay period from the 1st of the year.

        They did, however, at least have a free/discounted quit smoking program that you could enroll in to offset the $50.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I’m surprised that they would rely on self-disclosure and the chances of being caught smoking. Did HR and upper management regularly walk the grounds to try to catch smokers?

          The major hospital system near me will not hire smokers and is very transparent at every stage of the application process that they conduct blood tests to verify. They had some sort of grandfathering process for current employees who were smokers when their new policies went into effect, but I don’t really know the details.

          1. Cheesy*

            We were all “Remote” technicians. We had company vehicles that came home with us and got our jobs in the morning and went straight to the job site. We only came in once a week to restock our trucks, and were only there for 2 hours (and the first hour the HR person wasn’t present, and the 2nd hour was all inside the actual office for our weekly meeting). We had a large territory and most employees never saw another worker except for meetings or when I or another supervisor would roll up on them.

            Honestly, our single HR rep was so overworked that she didn’t have the time or inclination to look up who had put smoking or not smoking down and then to try and catch them smoking (or even remember if it was several months later). Obviously she knew a few of the smokers because she was one and they’d go out and smoke after the meeting, but if someone attempted to hide their smoking from her it would be incredibly easy. When I was a supervisor there I know I didn’t have access/knowledge on who had or had not signed as a non-smoker.

        2. Rachel Greep*

          My employer does random screening, and a person who gets the “non-smoker” discount is fired if they test positive for nicotine. It’s considered fraud.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              The test my last insurance company used was a saliva test. It’s unlikely that somebody exposed to secondhand smoke would have enough nicotine in their saliva to get a false positive.

              1. bleh*

                My saliva is mine, and I don’t share it with strangers. How awful. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      And what about people who drink alcohol? Shouldn’t they have to pay more as well?

      I mean there are all kinds of things tied to alcohol consumption, not the least of which is an increase in the possibility of DUI/accidents, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, high blood pressure, steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, depression, anxiety, esophageal cancer (esophageal squamous cell carcinoma), increased risk of both breast cancer and colorectal cancer, and a weakened immune system with a higher risk/incidence of pneumonia and tuberculosis. Just to name a few. Oh and alcoholism…

      But yeah, alcohol drinkers don’t get penalized by paying more for their health insurance.

      1. Mathilde*

        Yes, there are so many “self-inflicted” illnesses – which genereally come from the awful tendancy to want to… you know… live your bloody life – that starting to choose which ones will cost you more is such a slippery slope.

        But it is a wonderful slippery slope for insurances, because they can get more money. As Alison said, it is a very messed up system – an incoherent, unfair system, and completely made to make profit out of people, especially people in need.

        So it is difficult to push back on it in a workplace setting. I don’t even know if a company could refuse such a condition, it it wanted to.

        1. Mookie*

          Yep. Poverty is also a healthcare crisis, but, then again, some people are very vocally certain that poverty is a choice and a state of mind.

          1. Cherries on top*

            The only solution is to give free health care to the filthy rich because they’re obviously doing things right. Oh wait…

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            One of my son’s best friends is a slim teenaged athlete who was diagnosed with diabetes around age 13. He has to carefully monitor his blood sugar during games–not a coincidence that his mom is the team manager.

            Just how would you suggest he prevent that, Zip?

            1. Zip Silver*

              Type 1 diabetes is not Type 2 diabetes. You’re comparing genetics to people spending 20 overeating

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                No, you’re the one suddenly pulling out distinctions to try to cover your entirely preventable claim.

              2. Crivens!*

                Can we not with the fatphobia? I swear anytime eating or diet comes up someone has to show up to pull this.

              3. Liane*

                That there are two types of diabetes and you knew so, weren’t important enough details for you to mention until people called you out.

              4. Elizabeth*

                One entire side of my family is Type 2 diabetic. Every single person over the age of 45 and those of us who are younger have lab results suggesting it’s just a matter of time. They’re not overeaters (since it runs so heavily in the family we know a lot about what to eat to stave it off as long as possible) and some were very serious athletes, one semi-pro. It’s absurd to say there isn’t a large genetic and epigenetic component to Type 2 diabetes, like other inflammation-related diseases.

                That’s not even getting into how unhealthy a cultural attitude it is to try to partition health states into “this one is the person’s fault; that one isn’t.” That way always lies policies and attitudes that really undermine health care. (I’m speaking from the vantage of someone who works as a population health researcher.)

              5. Mis_Mia*

                You are still incorrect. Not all Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and not everyone who develops diabetes is obese. There are actually several risk factors. Please do not spread incorrect medical information.

          2. Zip Silver*

            Type 1 diabetes is not Type 2 diabetes. You’re comparing genetics to people spending 20 years overeating

            1. Jay*

              And you are a) showing your fat bias b) wrong about Type 2 DM c) wrong about Type 2 DM and d) wrong about weight, period. Type 2 DM is often caused by insulin resistance, which causes weight gain. Many fat people eat a diet you would probably consider “healthy,” and are fat anyway; many thin people eat in way you would consider “overeating.”

              Type 1 DM also has a genetic component, and older people can develop Type 1 DM after years of Type 2 – it’s not as cut-and-dried as we used to think.

              I’m an MD who used to be very fat and has Type 2 DM. Fat people have enough crap to deal with in our lives. Don’t be part of the crap.

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              A family member died before he was 30 from type 2 diabetes complications – he was slightly underweight his whole life.

            3. Akcipitrokulo*

              Another has type 1 – again, underweight all their life.

              (Please don’t take this as a judgement on those who are “over” weight.)

              Your argument is invalid and offensive on many levels.

            4. alanna*

              Research actually suggests that Type 2 DM has a greater genetic component than Type 1 DM. According to the American Diabetes Association, “when one twin has type 1 diabetes, the other gets the disease at most only half the time. When one twin has type 2 diabetes, the other’s risk is at most 3 in 4.”

              1. Zip Silver*

                That’s an interesting correlation, but I would think that it has much more to do with both twins being raised with the same dietary habits because they’re raised by the same parents. Environmental, rather than genetic

              2. Mr. Tyzik*

                Zip, you’re views on Type 2 DM are wrong, heartless, and disgusting. Stop. You’re spreading hate and misinformation about a subject you do not know, and doubling down on it comes across like mansplaining to those who have tried to correct you.

                Just stop. You’re being willfully ignorant. Stop.

          3. Type 2*

            You are clearly not a Diabetes expert. I have Type 2 – it runs on both sides of our family and none of us are “overweight”. It’s not a lifestyle choice – it’s a disease. Please don’t add to the ignorance of this illness. I walk 4 miles a day, my meds cost $500 per month WITH insurance and they give me nausea and explosive diarrhea. We don’t need your crap on top of that (literal) crap.

            1. krysb*

              I have PCOS, so my pancreas has been overproducing insulin since, well, birth. No matter what my diet is, I will always overproduce insulin and be more likely to form T2 diabetes. (Note: my sugar has never tested outside of normal and, trust me, it gets tested a lot.)

          4. NothingIsLittle*

            I know that, given the subject matter, I shouldn’t have laughed, but golly that’s a great line at the end there. Sorry you got stuck with unlucky genetics; I hope your preventative measures go well.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          So with auto insurance, it’s now an option to let them remotely monitor your driving habits, via your car’s computer, in order to get better rates based on your driving habits (and, presumably, higher rates if you have bad driving habits). At this time anyway, it’s an optional thing.

          Imagine if American medical insurance got in on that too?? So let’s say your insurance company discovers you’re prone to speeding, so your premiums increase. From there, your medical insurance decides you’re more likely to get in an accident and need medical care, so *those* premiums go up.

          Yes, speeding is bad, but it all gets quite Orwellian after awhile.

          1. Not Me*

            Your auto insurance would cover any auto accident related healthcare needs.

            A better comparison is if your health insurance wants to connect to your smart watches health app and change your premium based on how much exercise it’s clocking.

          2. The Jones*

            The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare (and some subsequent state restrictions) did severely limit the underwriting rules insurance companies could use for determination of rates, so now they’re looking at other data-mining processes to make smarter determinations to be profitable. (and face it, you want your insurance company to be profitable, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to pay claims)

      2. Baru Cormorant*

        Completely agree. The price of health insurance should not be based on how sick you are.

        It’s one thing to ban smoking in areas around the workplace to protect the environment for others, but it’s not right to raise their insurance premiums purely based on that any more than it is to raise it for obese people, meat-eaters, alcohol drinkers, people with multiple partners, people who use marijuana, people who don’t buy organic non GMO food–after all, these are all “lifestyle choices” that impact your health, right? And there’s certainly no socioeconomic, cultural, financial, or biological factors that contribute to them, so if people wanted to save money they could just stop any time, right?

        This quickly turns into some holier-than-thou condescension towards people whose only fault is being born in a time and place where smoking was cool and acceptable, and now they’re addicted (because it’s addictive!!). I am fortunate enough to be born into a family and social group where smoking was considered gross, but if I had been in a poorer family with different values, or in a country where it’s still common, or a musician, or had different friends at 18, I might smoke. And then it requires a phenomenal strength of will and often chemical assistance to quit.

        So let’s call this what it is: turning consumers on each other with a new purity test so companies can introduce the idea of paying for healthcare not just based on where you happen to work, but also based on how “healthy” you are (the definition of which will continue to flux and shrink so insurance companies can charge us more money for a basic right and call it “wellness incentive”).

        1. GS*

          @ Baru Cormorant – the thing with smoking is that it is SO bad for you, in so many medical ways. The surgeon general’s warning on cigarettes came out in 1965 so at this point everyone <65 (aka in the workforce) knew it was dangerous when they started (even as teenagers), so no whining about "additions".

          Obesity – many, many, many obese people are perfectly health. Something like 75-90% or so. For the rest of your list – eating meat, alcohol – yes, small impact on your health but not a big one. Marijuana, multiple partners, organic food – minuscule and statistically insignificant impact on your health. So bad examples there. Smoking – huge, statistically significant negative impact on your health, and 2nd hand smoke hurts others too (and pets!).

          1. Det. Charles Boyle*

            Right! And smoking is also bad for all the people around you who have to breathe in the secondhand smoke, which also causes cancer. So it’s completely reasonable to try to encourage people to quit, b/c not only are smokers harming themselves, they are harming everyone who comes into contact with them.

          2. CBD*

            Cannabis has documented BENEFITS to health (inflammation, anxiety, etc.) and several methods of intake that don’t involve smoking, as well.

            1. Wired Wolf*

              I’ve been microdosing (whole plant tincture, grown myself) for the past few months and have noticed a difference…for some weird reason, I’m now better able to handle working in the warehouse in summer and the heat-related migraines I’d been getting are far milder/more manageable. A coworker was using CBD oil for anxiety and was told by our GM “make sure you’re out of camera range when you take that” (implying that you can still be fired if you don’t have a medical card).

          3. Baru Cormorant*

            I agree that we should encourage people not to smoke because of the medical problems it causes. My point is that insurance companies should not be allowed to charge more based on how “healthy” some company deems someone’s life choices.

            Do you really think that an insurance company is going to say, “well smoking is REALLY bad, but obesity is not!” What if a smoker’s doctor gives them a clean bill of health, should they still be charged more just because they smoke? And it’s irrational and naive to set the surgeon general’s warning as a cutoff after which everyone else “should know better”–this is just another way of saying smokers deserve the medical problems they get (which is a gross way to talk about addiction). Smoking rates are higher among people who are poor, mentally ill, certain races and social classes, etc. so this could correlate to discrimination.

            If we let smokers get charged more because “they deserve it” then obese people and others are absolutely going to be charged more. It’s a slippery slope to letting companies step in between people and their doctors and I don’t think it’s right.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          This this this!!!!!

          I get soooooo tired if the “smoker=antichrist” comments all.the.time with zero thought given to other isdues that are also a choice.

          Oh but alcoholism is a disease right? They cant help it. OROH one can simply choose to not smoke right? Yeah maybe in Fantasyland.

          The Anti-Christ Who Had Quit Smoking 100 Times

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think there is a distinction in that any amount of smoking increases risks of a whole slew of medical issues, whereas with alcohol, most of the risks relate to high levels of use.

        Of course, if you buy insurance as an individual they do take into account all kinds of factors, it’s not a case of penalising jsut one choice. I guess the difference is that with health insurance through your employre you are being covered as part of a group, rather than having an individual policy, so perhaps the screeing and tailored price is done with a much broader brush.

        1. Mookie*

          I may be mistaken, but I though the current consensus in public health is that there is no healthy or safe level of alcohol consumption. I may be extrapolating from a paper or meta-analysis that recently got the Science-Illiterate Media treatment, though.

          1. Bagpuss*

            My understanding is that it depends which reports you read! But also that for moderate amoubts of alcohol there are some benefits, and the downsides are mostly very small increades in risks -but I don’t claim to be an expert.
            I think, however, that from a statistical and actuarial perspective, moderate alcohol use doesn’t have a noticable effect whereas even moderate smoking does

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Last I heard, light drinking was still associated with better health overall (light > teetotalers > heavy) but was also not distinct from other markers–i.e. people who drank lightly also cooked at home more, with more vegetables. (I am almost a teetotaler, so I have no skin in alcohol being okay.)

            1. Jaybeetee*

              Adam Ruins Everything just covered this! It turns out part of that correlation, that a lot of people miss, is *why* the teetotalers are teetotalers. That is, how many teetotalers in that study didn’t drink due to other health problems, and thus were “less healthy” than people who drank moderately?

              It’s like that other study that showed that sleeping more than 9-10 hours per night correlates with earlier death. Well, because many people who sleep that much regularly probably aren’t very healthy. Not because the sleeping itself is bad.

              1. some dude*

                I’d also hazard a guess that while alcohol is bad for you, people who drink more than moderately are probably doing so in relation to other health things (stress, depression, etc) and may be more wreckless in terms of other behavior, which might contribute to bad health outcomes as much as the booze itself. Most of the heavy drinkers I’ve known had other stuff going on – the booze was generally a form of self-medication for other things.

                but then again, the booze industry spends billions on studies that make it seem like booze is good for you so who knows.

          3. hbc*

            There are plenty of medical benefits of light drinking, and lots of evidence that the risks are overblown in America due to our puritan roots.

            If you want to play with statistics, there are studies that show that drinkers are actually healthier than non-drinkers. Now, I know that’s a bogus stat to base a policy on because it doesn’t take into account that people who are unwell to begin with can’t/shouldn’t drink, so the implied cause and effect is actually reversed in a lot of cases. But it still shows that it’s not nearly as simple a situation as smoking.

            1. pentamom*

              Not Puritan. The Puritans loved their beer. It was a 19th century thing. America was founded by people who considered moderate alcohol use to be unexceptional, as well as many who indulged more than that; Prohibition didn’t happen for nearly 150 years after the founding, 300 years after European settlement began.

          4. Eukomos*

            Well, sure, but in the same way that there’s no healthy or safe level of driving. It raises your risks in life and there’s no way around that, but people who do it in a sensible, moderate manner aren’t looking at a massive spike in risk of injury and death. I suppose in this metaphor heavy drinkers are the equivalent of people who drag race in the streets, they take something that’s normally mildly dangerous but quite controllable and use it to do something that puts their health at dire risk.

        2. Koala dreams*

          That’s interesting. As a school kid, I was taught that the amount of smoking made a big difference, and it’s always a good idea to cut down on smoking, similar to cutting down on alcohol. I guess that was not very accurate.

          What I find extra horrible with the nicotine testing idea is that many smokers use nicotine products to help them quit smoking. There are a lot of advertising for these products. So even smokers who have decided to quit smoking might have to pay the surcharges.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I think that’s true – smoking (say) 5 cigarettes a day is less bad for you than smoking 10 a day, and that’s less bad than 20 a day, but there is no ‘safe level’ of smoking.

            Simialrly, giving up smoking has a lot of health benefits but someone who has smoked but gives up is likely to be a higher rsk that someone who has never smoked

        3. Works in IT*

          Smoking is also different in that if you drink alcohol, simply being in your presence won’t hurt anyone (unless you’re driving drunk), and if you’re obese (whether lifestyle choice or genetics) you won’t hurt people by standing near them unless you like… invade their personal space and crush them, but if you’re a smoker, the cloud of smog around you absolutely will trigger my allergies and leave me coughing for the rest of the day, and could trigger asthma attacks in someone with asthma. Smoking doesn’t just affect the person who smokes, it also causes health problems for the smoker’s coworkers. I am beyond happy to be working somewhere that does not hire smokers, I go from happy and carefree to miserable in about two seconds if I inhale tobacco fumes.

          1. kittymommy*

            Excellent point. I grew up around smokers (I myself have never smoked) and no I am not around smokers, though I have one friend who occasionally vapes. I have found the older I get the more I am affected by even just the residual smell of smoke. There was a gentleman who came in my office a couple of weeks ago and the lingering smell of cigarettes coming off of him and the papers he left gave me an asthma attack. We ended up having to copy the papers and discard them because even days later you had to read them in open air in order to read them.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Sometimes when a person returns library books, they smell so strongly of cigarette smoke that we just have to throw them away. We’ve tried about 17 methods to get the smell out of the paper, and there are some cases where nothing works and we can’t keep the books in circulation.

          2. Gaia*

            Yep! As someone who has a chronic disease directly related to smoking but has never smoked myself I’m pretty sure it is closely related to the fact that I grew up around heavy smokers (who have all since quite smoking).

            I avoid smokers. I know it is an addiction and it is one of the hardest things out there to kick. But my health is too important. Even the lingering smell on fabric can set off my issues.

          3. A*

            Very true in relation to traditional cigarettes, but the landscape is changing. It’s still a disgusting habit, and mildly obnoxious to those around them, but vaping is not nearly as harmful 2nd hand (not to say it isn’t harmful at all). At least in my area, most smokers seem to have switched methods.

              1. Manon*

                Iirc, vapes contain flavored juice with nicotine and not actual tobacco. Secondhand vape is still annoying but less medically irritating for most people.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                Vaping/e-cigs don’t contain any tobacco, unless the tobacco-flavored liquid has it?
                I’m also allergic to tobacco, and the steam from vaping doesn’t cause me any symptoms at all.
                I know two people who say they’ve gotten sick from vaping or the steam, so it’s apparently possible to be allergic to vaping ingredients, but it’s not tobacco.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          I just chose alcohol at random. Insert anything else that affects health.

          One undeniable fact is that even a very small amount if alcohol impairs almost everyone and some of the impaired are going to drive thus endangering themselves and others.

          Ergo a small amount of alcohol most definitely can be deleterious to health, even to the health if non-drinkers who happen to be sharing the road with a drunk.

      4. Mathilde*

        And it also directly buys into the tendancy to punish people who have addictions, although all the studies show that this doesn’t help at all, and it can make it worse.

        We are also so conditioned to see smoking as a bad thing (don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not healthy), but some many things aren’t healthy either, and could mean that you are endangering your life in some way and should then pay more : not exercising, exercising too much, eating too much red meat, not eating enough protein, drinking too much tea, drinking too much coffee, going the pub for a pint, not sleeping enough, getting pregnant when you have a medical condition, biking without a helmet, eating too much sugar, traveling to places where contagious diseases can be found, changing a light bulb without turning off the power, wearing high heels, forgetting a dentist’s appointment…

        Basically, where does it end ? If we are starting to discuss where the limit should be for a company to be involved in the health of her employees… we have already gone too far.

        1. Gymmie*

          They aren’t punishing people, they are looking at numbers and higher risk people generate higher premiums.

          I think it’s just something that is easy to determine and there is a lot of data.

          1. Matthew Minnick*

            I mean technically you’re correct, it’s not a punishment.

            But $50 extra premium can feel like a punishment depending on your circumstances.

            1. Quill*

              It can also make it more difficult to kick the habit, since increasing stress is not good for quitting.

              1. willow*

                OR provide the additional incentive needed to quit. Same idea as the additional tax making it more expensive to smoke.

                1. lemon*

                  But companies that test your blood for nicotine are making it harder for people to quit. People who use quit aids, like nicotine patches, are more successful at quitting long-term than people who don’t. With blood tests, people who are using nicotine replacement to quit are being penalized.

                2. willow*

                  … not really? If you are using nicotine patches you are on your way to quitting. Hopefully by next enrollment, or the next, you would be completely independent and no longer paying the higher premium.

                3. Quill*

                  A tax on cigarettes is a direct barrier to accessing cigarettes. A health program that tests your blood level for nicotine is a barrier to many methods of quitting. Not the same thing, effectively, at all. (Plus: smokers are far more likely to live with smokers. If they can’t get good insurance because someone else in their household can’t kick the habit and it keeps showing up in their blood test, what’s the point in quitting?)

                4. willow*

                  I am not really arguing about the merits of a blood test (I dont think most companies or carriers require this). I was arguing that increasing the costs of smoking is incentive to quit/vs an additional incentive to smoke.

                5. Delphine*

                  Maybe providing help for people struggling would encourage them to quit…which would be a good use of health insurance…which is why it maybe should not be less accessible.

                6. willow*

                  a quick google search shows that nearly every (possibly every) major carrier includes tobacco cessation plans in their insurance policies.
                  UHC “Quit for Life”
                  BCBS “Tobacco Cessation Incentive Program”
                  I don’t see why a company should feel compelled to get involved in the actual process of quitting. But I do see why they would want to pass the increased costs they incur to the smokers themselves. Not to punish them necessarily, but to say our plan costs more because you smoke, so you can pick up part of the tab.

                7. Jadelyn*

                  But if heaping taxes upon taxes was enough to get people to quit, nobody would be smoking anymore, so I’m doubtful that this is going to be all that helpful.

                8. Drewsk*

                  According to the CDC the rates of smoking in the US is the lowest ever recorded. Cant say what got us there but I’d bet the price of cigarettes didn’t hurt.

            2. ThatMarketingChick*

              I have to point out the irony here. You can’t afford the extra $50/month if you’re a smoker, but you can afford to buy $7 packs of cigarettes? Even two packs a week costs more every month.

              1. Mr. Tyzik*

                So now we’re policing the choices people make with their money? Why don’t we start complaining about poor people with iPhones and welfare queens to make the comparisons really apt.

                1. willow*

                  Who is policing?

                  If smokers incur a higher medical cost (they do) why wouldn’t they pay more for insurance that covers the inevitable costs? Especially in this case, where their insurance costs have a direct impact on yours. Arguing that that choice to risk ones health and directly increase the premiums of one’s coworkers should be *more affordable* would be difficult.

                2. Works in IT*

                  Statistically, welfare queens make up a tiny minority of people on welfare, and frankly, identifying them would probably cost more money than leaving them be. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to occasionally be able to save up money to treat themselves… humans are not machines.

                  However, a welfare queen would not make me sick by simply walking by me. A poor person with an iPhone would not make me sick by simply walking by me. A smoker WOULD make me very sick. It’s the fact that smokers sicken others that causes them to be treated separately, and causes companies to either require a negative nicotine test to be hired or implement policies that penalize smokers.

                3. Mr. Tyzik*

                  I’m talking about the comment about the tradeoff between the surcharge and the smokes, and being able to afford smokes in general. It’s policing someone’s choice to judge them for how they spend their limited funds. Smoking is an addiction and it’s hard to stop, people don’t just quit overnight without ever looking back.

                  The argument sounds exactly the same as those who criticize people in poverty for having “nice things”. If you can’t afford food, how can you afford an iPhone? It’s not an either or situation.

                  We don’t get to say what people spend their limited dollars on. We don’t get to judge them for what they buy. It’s wrong to make this kind of comparison.

                4. Mr. Tyzik*

                  @Works in IT – I agree that smoking is a health issue for the smoker and those around the smoker. I’ve been a smoker and grew up with a heavy smoker, so I’m aware of the damage from both sides. I’ve paid the surcharge and the cig prices. Smokers get enough judgment about their addiction without people calculating the tradeoffs and expenditures of the habit.

                  I’m specifically upset about the all-or-nothing judgment of where a person should spend money based on someone else’s expectations.

                5. willow*

                  This isn’t just a judgment. This is a real expense. The idea is to offset the real actual expenses, and encourage people to stop which would lower pool rates.

                  Nothing to do with feelings or judgement!

                6. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @willow – Making smoking more expensive doesn’t make people stop being addicted to it. People who are addicted to nicotine pay the exorbitant price of cigarettes because they are addicted. It’s not like other “unhealthy” life choices. If Little Debbie cakes tripled in price, I’d probably stop buying them. But I’m not addicted to Little Debbie cakes, so my body and brain aren’t constantly trying to tell me I need them. Judging people who are addicted to something because they’re willing to pay a higher price to keep getting it is missing the point.

                7. willow*

                  @Libratian of SHIELD
                  Again, this isn’t about judging people or their actions. It is about the additional expense that smokers bring to group health insurance. It isnt really even about making people stop.

                  If everyone in your office started smoking tomorrow and your rates doubled next year, would you really think that was fair? Or would you think it were more fair if their rates doubled, and yours stayed the same. I don’t care if my coworkers smoke. But I don’t want to pay more than I have to for health insurance.

                8. Jadelyn*

                  @willow And by that logic, as several people have pointed out, we should also be charging more to people who do sports (much higher risk of injuries), drive fast (also higher risk of injuries), and drink alcohol (potential for long-term damage similar to smoking).

                  The goalposts keep dancing around in this conversation. It’s about keeping costs down/passing on costs! Okay, but why are smokers singled out? Because they affect other people! Okay, but what’s that got to do with the cost of their insurance? Charging them more is encouraging them to quit! Okay, but that’s not a very effective way to do it, especially if the company doesn’t provide support for smoking cessation. It’s not about making them quit, it’s about the costs!

                  and around and around it goes. To me, it seems that most people object to smoking on some sort of moral grounds and are okay with punishing smokers for it, and all the reasons are really just looking for excuses for the punishment people want to see inflicted.

                9. willow*

                  If the goal posts are moving… it am not the one moving them.

                  The carriers do not raise the rates when everyone starts playing sports, or driving fast cars, or anything else like that. They don’t know who drinks too much. They don’t know those things. But they do know who uses tobacco, and how often they say they use it. They know it is expensive and they raise the rates for the entire pool.

                  Employees have to declare if they smoke to the insurance carrier. If they had to declare their ownership of sports cars, maybe that would be treated the same way. But it doubt it… because of auto insurance.

                10. willow*

                  “To me, it seems that most people object to smoking on some sort of moral grounds and are okay with punishing smokers for it, and all the reasons are really just looking for excuses for the punishment people want to see inflicted.”

                  No. I think most people just don’t want to pay more every month because their coworker smokes.

                11. smoke tree*

                  @willow: But that is in the nature of insurance! You can’t control the behaviour of everyone else who’s covered by the same insurance provider. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your coworkers commenting on the contents of your lunch because you’re not healthy enough for their taste. I don’t see any compelling reason to draw a line around smoking, except that smoking is considered less socially acceptable than other potentially unhealthy habits like drinking or marathon running.

                12. Baru Cormorant*

                  Jadelyn made the best comment. This is just shifting the goal posts around and around. Willow, your argument boils down to “we should do this because we can and we decided it’s OK to do.”

              2. A*

                Not all smokers are going through that kind of quantity. I’m not a smoker, but several of my friends are – and now that we are in our 30’s, most of them only smoke 1-2 a day. That’s definitely not the same as $50/month.

            3. willow*

              Yes but they are providing medical health insurance. And a smoker is essentially guaranteeing an incredibly high expense down the road.

              This isn’t about making people feel good or bad, its about insurance. The same reason a corvette is more expensive to ensure than a civic.

              1. Risha*

                And a smoker is essentially guaranteeing an incredibly high expense down the road.

                Oh come now. That’s not how health risks work. A smoker is no more guaranteed to get sick from it than someone who is fat is guaranteed to get diabetes, or an alcoholic is guaranteed to develop liver issues. It’s an increased risk. The average smoker will live out their entire lives without getting cancer or even emphysema or any other potentially smoking-related illness. (And I say this as someone whose mother, a smoker who refused to quit, died last year from small cell lung cancer.)

                1. willow*

                  Which of those outcomes do you think the insurance carrier will bill you for? They are going to bill you, assuming they will be paying for the cancer treatment or emphasize, whether it happens or not. Same way you’ll pay more for life insurance if you are a skydiving instructor, even if it doesn’t kill you.

                  And what I really meant was smokers as a whole, in pools of insurance. A single smoker may not ever see the negative effects, but statistically if you have a pool with a significant number of smokers, your insurer knows they will be paying for those very expensive treatments… and therefore you are paying for them.

                2. Not Me*

                  This is just not true. Smoking has been linked to nearly 1 in 5 deaths in America every year. It is almost guaranteed that you will develop at least one health issue due to smoking.

                  Not only does that have an impact on health care costs but employer costs of lost production due to missed work need to be factored into that for employers too.

                3. NotMyRealName*

                  The average smoker has a 14 year shorter life expectancy than the general population. Yes, cancer is part of that, but also increased stroke and heart attack.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Yes to this. I don’t smoke, never have, and none of my immediate family smoke, so it feels a little abstract for me. But I think it’s generally viewed as acceptable to charge smokers more because it’s seen as totally voluntary, in a way that other expensive-to-insure things aren’t. But a lot of, say, 50-something smokers have been smoking since they were teenagers, and it’s not really a choice in a day-to-day way. Quitting smoking is notoriously difficult, and charging someone more for an addiction they developed 30 years ago is pretty crappy. “Pay more because you made some bad decisions about your health in 1987 back when high schools still had student smoking lounges” isn’t really a great stance for an employer to take.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Yeah, I think the idea that it’s totally voluntary is bunk, for all the reasons you say. Everyone I know who “chooses” to smoke got addicted early as a teenager, and is now an adult who’s tried many times to quit.

            1. Det. Charles Boyle*

              Just because it’s difficult to quit doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Lots of people do it successfully.

              1. EmKay*

                And good for them. But you can’t deny that smokers are addicted, and quitting an addiction is not as simple as “choosing to stop”. Don’t be willfully obtuse about this.

              2. Jadelyn*

                “Other people can do it!” is rarely a good reason to hold individuals to a given standard. “Lots of people” can bench 200 lbs, too. Are you judging those who can’t, because “lots of people” can?

            2. Artemesia*

              The health disaster that is smoking has been well known since today’s addicts were teens. It was always a choice.

              1. Mr. Tyzik*

                In rural US, in the 70s, when half the family smoked and it was in magazines and TVs and movies and no health warnings on packs and no age limit to purchase – sure, it was an informed choice. :/

                Research has been out since the 60s but was suppressed to increase marketing. By the time the health warnings were known, many of my peers were already hooked

              2. bleh*

                People who have less cognitive load can talk about choice all they want. This is also a class issue, and those who were 1. raised around smoking 2. deal with poverty and the increased cognitive load of that situation 3. have no reason to believe they won’t die young (learned hopelessness) anyway 4. start smoking before their frontal cortex is fully formed, just don’t have the bandwidth to “choose” quitting once they realize they are addicted. These policies effectively punish poverty – again.

            3. Mr. Tyzik*

              I quit smoking 10 years ago after 14 years and it was and is a struggle. Every damn day I want one. It’s hard.

              I knew a guy in theatre who smoked and had done heroin back in the 70s. He said compared to smoking, kicking heroin was easier.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I fly coast to coast pretty often. Right about the time we get over North Dakota (W-E) or Wisconsin (E-W) I am ready to step out into the wing for a smoke.

            4. wendelenn*

              But what I have NEVER understood, in this day and age when so much is known, why is anyone stupid enough to start smoking?

              1. Baru Cormorant*

                Why don’t you ask someone who smokes? Maybe don’t call them stupid if you want an answer though.

                1. pentamom*

                  Most adults are under 55, so with respect to the widespread knowledge of the dangers of smoking, it was “this day and age.”

        3. Not Me*

          I think plenty of people look at it as rewarding people who are making good choices for their health.

          1. willow*


            There is a difference and I strongly agree that people that live a healthier lifestyle, and are at a lower risk of incurring medical expenses, should pay less. Just like every other insurance industry.

            1. Legal Beagle*

              This completely ignores the HUGE component that genetics and many other non-voluntary factors play in health. “Lifestyle” can only do so much!

              1. willow*

                That is true in most insurance markets. You can be the safest driver on the road and a victim of unfortunate circumstance get in an accident, or a series of accidents, that raise your rates. Or a ticket that was totally bogus and not your fault.
                But in my mind that shouldn’t mean that no one is rewarded for safe driving. Luck of the draw, so to speak.

                And because there are so many factors at play… healthy lifestyle choices should offset some amount of genetic bad luck. If you were born with diabetes, and took care of yourself, you should pay less than someone with the same disease that doesn’t.

                1. pancakes*

                  It appalls me that you’d prefer a healthcare system where insurance companies somehow monitor who “takes care of themself” to one where everyone has healthcare, period. I was diagnosed with a cancer that doesn’t run in my family when I was 34, and noticing how many people prefer an overbearing and punitive healthcare system to one that isn’t has been one of the most difficult aspects of the whole thing. I’ve been in remission for several years but I’ll never be able to stop noticing how many people look toward the healthcare industry as a good way to punish people.

                2. pancakes*

                  A question for you, willow: Where does Josh Wilkerson fall on your scale of taking care of oneself? That’s the young man in Virginia who died earlier this month after switching to a cheaper, less effective, over-the-counter insulin. He had Type 1 diabetes. Was he taking care of himself by your standards?

                3. willow*

                  Do you have the same issue with other types of medical insurance? Everyone should pay the same for life insurance etc?

                  I don’t think it is appalling to think that a young person with a perfect annual physical could expect affordable insurance. Or that they should pay less than a 60 year old with a perfect physical. I didn’t realize that was appalling. I don’t know a single thing about Josh Wilkerson but I don’t really know what that has to do with this argument. If his insurance were less expensive he would still be alive? Is that what you are saying?

                4. pancakes*

                  You didn’t answer a single one of my questions, and apparently don’t know how to run a simple search to learn more about a name in the news. You also don’t appear to realize that there are countries where the issue of “affordable” insurance is nonexistent because everyone is covered. Your response is so obtuse and disingenuous that I’d have thought much better of you if you hadn’t responded at all.

                5. willow*

                  You only asked one question, what I think about Josh. I don’t know about Josh. When I google Josh Wilkerson the first result is a kid that was murdered by his illegal immigrant classmate. I’m assuming that isn’t who you are talking about. Regardless, I don’t know what his insurance premium should have been or see how it is relevant.

                  If your argument is we should have an unspecified, affordable, perfect system where everyone is covered, then yes sure that sounds great. If that is an alternative to the current system, then yes ill take the hypothetical perfect one!

                6. pancakes*

                  Adding diabetes to your search will probably get you the correct one. I’ll put a link in a separate comment because it’ll be delayed appearing here.

                  I can see it wasn’t clear, but I was also asking, indirectly, what it is that you prefer about an overbearing and punitive healthcare system to one that provides universal coverage. Medicare for all, for example.

                7. willow*

                  If he couldn’t afford insulin, it doesn’t seem like any healthcare discussion we are or have been having would solve that other than a policy that specifically includes insulin. Medicare doesn’t cover everything 100%, in fact you have to buy supplemental policies to even get to the point of a typical private policy. If he were on medicare, i suspect he still wouldn’t be able to afford insulin. But I am no expert.

                  To me the biggest problem with medicare for all is how inefficiently medicare is run. My father enrolled recently and it has been a nightmare. I don’t understand how the average american navigates it. His doctor doesn’t accept it because it pays so little, he pays him out of pocket to see him. the “universal government coverage” solutions don’t solve the problems. they hide the problems from the consumer. We would pay our outrageous premiums through our taxes instead, and providers would suffer lower reimbursement costs, and the government would be fumbling through running this broken system rather than the carriers we use now. At least now, you can shop different carriers.

                  This is a big conversation to have in a conversation section of a blog. I doubt we can effectively continue it. I wish you well and hope for the best in your battle. Continue to kick cancers ass!

                8. pancakes*

                  I wasn’t asking you about the downsides of Medicare as it’s presently structured—the Medicare for all plans presently being discussed diverge from it in key ways, so that would be a silly question. I was asking whether that young man was “taking care of himself” by your standards. To be perfectly clear, I’m not asking yet again.

                9. Librarian1*

                  You know – Insurance companies used to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. The ACA got rid of that because it’s a horrible thing to do. And it’s impossible to monitor people’s lifestyle choices. Plus, you don’t know what environmental (meaning both the physical and social environment) issues are interfering with someone’s ability to take care of themselves.
                  Since you brought up Type 1 Diabetes – have you heard about how expensive insulin has gotten? And how people are rationing insulin because they can’t afford as much as they need? One could argue that those people aren’t taking care of themselves. But it’s not their choice, they are forced to do so by their circumstances.
                  Honestly, willow, your comments make you sound like someone who’s never had any health issues and has never been denied insurance because of it or worried how to pay for healthcare to treat those issues.

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              But this is incredibly difficult to manage in practice in a way that feels remotely fair, because it’s not like our health is determined entirely by our choices.

              Most people believe you shouldn’t have to pay more for health insurance based on things outside your control (genetic conditions, for example). But if, for example, someone has a genetic condition that leads to early-onset arthritis, what level of exercise is it appropriate to expect from them in order to charge them less? If someone has complicated food allergies or a GI condition, what kind of diet do they need to eat to get a lower health insurance rate?

              I see where people think “oh, well, smoking is different because it’s a choice.” But even though it may have been a choice to start, it’s not really a choice to keep smoking once you’re addicted. That’s what addiction means. Should insurance not cover any sort of drug and alcohol rehab, because it was people’s choices that led them there in the first place, under that way of looking at things?

              1. willow*

                Insurance companies are really good at determining an individuals risk, and what kind of expenses are associated with that risk.

                The ACA mandated that they cannot deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, they didn’t mandate that the carrier had to ignore them though.

                So there was no “solution. The higher premiums that this person would have paid are just spread out among the pool of people. So instead of one person paying more for their genetic disorder, the company spreads it among all employees.

                There is obviously a mix of variables that are within and outside individuals control, but I don’t think that you have to feel the same way about both sides. You can want to give people credit for exercising, without wanting to specifically punish people with cancer. Same goes for smoking… if someone smokes and is active, I would rather see them pay less than someone who smokes and is inactive.

                1. Baru Cormorant*

                  But now you’re picking and choosing which lifestyle choices are better or worse. What about someone who smokes, exercises daily, eats vegetables, is a kind person who lives safely, vs. a non smoker who never exercises, drinks and does recreational drugs, is obese and subsists on McDonalds, and does extreme dangerous sports that frequently cause injuries?

                  Do you really want insurance companies (the most moral industry in the world /s) weighing individuals’ life choices and saying well, if you want to save money on insurance then stop being fat? And demanding a very invasive questionnaire to assess your “risk”? All for the purpose of saving the company money?

                  I think we should scrap this idea that insurance premiums are some kind of financial incentive and encourage people to live healthy lives for its own benefit, rather a cost-cutting measure. We are humans not burdens.

                2. willow*

                  I get what you are saying, but I think the difference is it isn’t insurance if they aren’t allowed to change what they think it will cost to insure you (isn’t really insurance anymore already).

                  So if we are going to do away with different premiums for different people, lets just call it what it is… a heathcare tax. Right now it is a healthcare tax passed through employers and really hurts employees. Might as well remove employers from the equation and free employees from the risk of losing insurance if they lose employment.

                  If car insurance were pooled no one would judge their coworker who got rear eneded. But they might not appreciate the one that went out and bought a new motorcycle.

              2. Not Me*

                Insurance companies aren’t really in the business of making decisions that “feel fair” though.

      5. fizzywhizkid*

        Surely the main difference is that drinking alcohol or eating sugar doesn’t directly cause health problems for those around you. Second and third hand smoke is very much a thing! If I’m sitting next to someone having a glass of wine, there are not ill effects from the alcohol itself, whereas if I’m sitting next to a smoker, the second had smoke can directly effect my health.
        So the person drinking alcohol or eating sugar or engaging in personally reckless behavior is endangering themselves, but the smoker is endangering themselves and the public at large. So they are, in effect, increasing the cost of health care for *everyone*.

        1. Asenath*

          I am dubious about most of the reports on the damage caused by secondhand smoke – I think the evidence actually shows that if there is any effect, it’s on people who have extremely high exposure to secondhand smoke – that is, living and working in a smoke-filled environment, not sitting next to a smoker for a few minutes. And I disbelieve claims of damage due to third-hand smoke.

          As for the issue more generally – this is an artifact of the US health care system. In Canada, although there are plenty of people who do want to limit access to care for people with problems seen as being “self-inflicted”, the original premise was that everyone pays in at the same rate (through taxes), everyone gets the same coverage. I hope it stays like that.

          1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

            As someone who has lifelong health issues directly caused by exposure to second-hand smoke in my childhood, I now feel physically sick sitting next to anyone who has smoked or been near smokers. I welcome ANY moves to encourage smokers to stop for their own health and that of their families, friends and colleagues.

          2. New Job So Much Better*

            I know someone who has bladder cancer, believed to be caused by second-hand smoke. It’s real.

          3. Essess*

            I go into an asthma attack when a smoker sits next to me in a meeting. It takes less than 5 minutes.

          4. Salymander*

            I have asthma. Secondhand smoke triggers it. As in, I have an asthma attack and use my inhaler so I don’t have to be rushed to the hospital, but then I feel like crap for a couple of days minimum.

            I moved into a house that the realtor and owner both told me had been smoke free. I don’t know what magic they used on the house, but I had no idea they were lying. For the first couple of months. Then, I turned the air conditioner on. Suddenly, I had severe bronchitis for 6 months of the year (so fan, air conditioner and heater system all do this. It is in the ducts.) for the next 4 years. Changing air filters and using air purifiers made little difference. I can’t afford to move or to replace the whole system. The lasting problems of secondhand smoke are real, expensive, and really painful.

            1. Miranda*

              You can pay to get ducts cleaned and have fancy industrial filters freshen up your whole house’s air. I think we did and also had all the carpets scrubbed professionally when we were moving to a new place with our brand new, just released from the NICU, preemie baby. I don’t know how much it helped, but it didn’t hurt and gave us a little extra peace of mind.

          5. Works in IT*

            I don’t have asthma, but I am allergic to tobacco, and exposure to cigarette smoke causes me to start coughing until I feel like I’m going to cough up a lung, and gives me itchy watery eyes for the rest of the day. And often times the itchy watery eyes trigger a sinus infection, so I end up with a headache for a few weeks.

            1. Cheesy*

              My dad was diagnosed with a “sensitivity” to nicotine. Not a full blown allergy, but he had a heart attack at age 35 and was at most a 1 pack a day smoker who didn’t even start until his early 20’s and gradually worked up to that 1 pack. His cardiac event wasn’t due to a blockage but due to coronary arterial spasm that his cardiologists said was a reaction to the nicotine (in his specific case) after lots and lots of testing.

          6. Gaia*

            It is real and the evidence is clear. Even regular, casual, exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous.

            1. beckysuz*

              Yeah…..many moons ago when I was a bartender, smoking was still legal in bars. I never smoked in my life, but I was almost constantly sick when I had that job. Lung problems, exhaustion, bad skin, headaches. After smoking was banned in all public buildings it stopped and other than an occasional cold it’s never been a problem. I didn’t realize what a number second hand smoke could do to a person until I wasn’t getting smoke blown at me all night. I can’t imagine having to grow up in a house with parents that smoked. Mine were very anti smoking so it never even occurred to me to try cigs as an adult

              1. beckysuz*

                Also, in regards to vaping, according to my scientist husband it is more dangerous than smoking. Something about crystals on the lungs. I do know that vaping has been newly added to my daughter’s high school student-athlete zero tolerance policy list along with drugs and alcohol. I’m happy that they are cracking down on vaping since it seems it was increasing in use among high schoolers and is decidedly not safe.

              2. Wired Wolf*

                Both sides of my family have had smoking problems; my mom’s mom was a heavy smoker for many years and both my dad’s parents died from smoking complications (mother=chronic emphysema, father= developed lung cancer after having quit for 10 years, secondhand smoke was the ultimate cause). My mom smokes very occasionally, dad and I do not (I think I tried a cigarette once in college and was like “what’s the appeal of this?”)

        2. PhyllisB*

          A big amen to that, fizzywhizkid!! I had to have a section of my lung removed at age 34 because of a cancerous growth and I never smoked a day in my life. However, everyone in my family did. The good thing about this is that this caused them all to quit smoking.

        3. smoke tree*

          I think this stance just supports the idea that smoking is targeted by employers because it’s not popular. The average non-smoking employee isn’t going to be too bothered by smokers having to pay more, because in the back of their minds they believe those people shouldn’t be smoking anyway. But the underlying question is whether we really want employers to be monitoring employees’ health and personal choices to this degree, including personal choices that we may not personally agree with.

        4. Cherries on top*

          Well alcoho in larger certainly have negative effects on more than the consumer. But this reasoning can go on forever.

      6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        The rules are made by politicians, so in the end it’s a popularity contest. The average person will occasionally drink, and politicians don’t want to annoy everyone by punishing that behavior. Most of the time with smoking your are a smoker or you aren’t. Smoking has been less and less popular and it has become more popular to punish it in various ways (high taxes on them for one) partially due to non-smokers annoyance with secondhand smoke. Politically it is a good thing to target. Plus the fact that you can test for nicotine pretty easily but I don’t think there is a way to test if someone had a drink a week ago (at least on a cheap mass scale).

        1. Works in IT*

          I would not call wanting to remain healthy and not sick with allergies “annoyance”. Being near smokers is detrimental to the health of many people, whether because they have asthma, allergies, or other lung problems. As far as I’m concerned, a smoker’s rights end where my right to not get sick begins…. and the fumes that come off a smoker’s clothing are enough to make me horribly sick.

        2. Det. Charles Boyle*

          You know the people (i.e., you and me) are the ones who elect politicians, right? So if you want to change laws, you can contact your elected officials and let them know. And you can lobby for what you want to change.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            annnnd… there are no super vocal people out there right now lobbying for smokers not to be punished by insurance prices. So the politicians feel comfortable setting laws that let that happen. That is my point – smoking is not popular right now, so no one is really fighting for smokers rights – so that is why the insurance companies do this. We elect politicians, but we don’t get unlimited choices. Guy A or Guy B or Gal C – that’s it. They are gonna focus on what gets them the most votes. If people don’t visibly care about an issue then it’s not gonna affect an election. It’s all a popularity contest and smokers are loosing. Drinking and terrible food and other bad things for you are all a lot more popular than smoking is, so politicians don’t want to make voters lobby against them by letting insurance companies go after those things.

      7. Samantha Parkinton*

        I feel like smoking is very easy to determine, and that’s why they use it. Nicotine can show up in a blood test and it’s not a medical condition. I’ve often wondered why that seems to be like the ONLY thing that can affect your insurance, but it does and I think it’s just that it’s easy.

        At the doctor they always ask about drinking, your seatbelt, and smoking. Never have they asked if I use marijuana, have an eating disorder, or feel safe in my home. Same thing with the online “wellness” assessments. I have severe depression and purge my food, but I get kind of good scores because I don’t smoke or drink!

      8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        To be fair before ACA they did take into account just about everything they thought of.

        Including your weight and BMI. Being fat is considered a preexisting condition and landed many uninsured in the High Risk pool. Aka deemed uninsurable except but high cost state ran insurance.

        So in the end smoking is the only thing they are still allowed to consider because it effects multiple body parts and leads to more health needs than other vices and risky habits.

      9. Det. Charles Boyle*

        This is called “whataboutism.” Deflecting from the original question or point to distract people from the issue at hand. What about alcohol abuse? Or cell phone addiction? Or overeating? Or . . . .what have you.

      10. smoke tree*

        Yes, I think popular opinion is definitely a factor with this. I’m troubled by workplaces punishing smokers not just because of the overreach, but also because smoking tends to be associated with lower socioeconomic status and is quite often picked up by teenagers, after which it becomes extremely hard to quit.

        I realize workplaces/governments/the spirit of capitalism would like us to believe that individuals are responsible for pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and making healthy choices, but socioeconomic factors play a major role in health and addiction. If employers really want to support their employees’ heath, there are many more genuinely helpful and less intrusive ways they could do so rather than demanding more money from people who are statistically likely to have less to begin with.

      11. Former Employee*

        There are studies showing that drinking in moderation might improve one’s health.

        There are no studies that indicate that any level of smoking is healthy. In fact, even moderate smokers appear to be at higher risk for various medical problems.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      I come from a country with socialized health care, so my perspective on this is different. The only thing that my personal habits etc. affect the price of is life insurance. Even extended private health plans, which cover things like vision care, prescriptions, and dental, have always been a flat fee for everyone at a given job. (Side note: I’d love to see all of those things be part of our public health care plan, too, since proper care early on for all those things tends to save a BUNCH of money in the public system later.)

      There are too many conditions, both “controllable” and uncontrollable, that could/should affect what you pay for basic health care, and too many of the “controllable” ones have their roots in issues of class or just plain societal judgement without basis in fact. It doesn’t sound like your insurance charges extra if you binge drink, if you sunbathe or use a tanning bed, if you drive recklessly raising your risk of a accident, etc. even though all of those things raise risk and medical expenses.

      So while I support on-site smoking bans (especially for hospitals!) I’m not sure that additional charges on insurance do much to improve the overall state of someone’s health, and I feel like it’s too subjective whether a risky “controllable” behaviour gets you charged extra or not.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yes actually this is all nickel dime stuff around the edges. The US has the worst medical care system in the western world which costs twice what they pay per head in France and in France they cover everyone. No one worries they will lose their house if they get sick or go bankrupt if their child get’s cancer. Care is excellent and paid for with taxes and there is no need to support huge profits for pharma, hospitals and doctors and insurance companies. The US system is about wealth for a few and the system is designed to deny care and to shift expenses to patients and make sure stockholders and executives are wealthy. We could have a system like the one in France for half what we now pay for health care. Tying insurance to jobs is nuts on many levels including if you get sick enough that you can’t work, you lose medical care.

        1. Old Millenial*

          I agree with a lot of what you say, but i want to clarify that hospitals are often not winning on profits in this either! It’s maybe 3% margin for a lot of us.

          Now wheter or drs are overpaid, is a whole other discussion with our high edu costs.

      1. Gaia*

        While I am all for discounts for non-smokers…there was a time in my life that $15 a month was definitely not “nothing.” There was a time in my life where $5 was not “nothing.”

      2. A*

        Well that’s a blanket statement if I ever saw one. I’m happy for you that $15 is “nothing”, and am lucky enough to be in the same boat – but I would never, ever assume that for others. Granted, if they can afford cigarettes, $15 shouldn’t break the bank, but there are a million and one factors that could come into play.

        1. Cherries on top*

          Maybe they’re thinking ahead. Less food for child = lower BMI = healthy = cheaper to insure.

    4. Goose Lavel*

      If you get charged more to smoke, you could switch to vaping for nicotine delivery. It may be many years until the FDA issues any health warnings regarding vaping nicotine, although the recent news about extreme vaping lung damage is getting more traction in the media and may eventually reduce the number of years you can vape without an insurance cost penalty.

      1. MayLou*

        Surely this wouldn’t work if they’re using a blood test to determine nicotine levels in the blood as a proxy for whether someone is a smoker or not? Or is the blood test looking for something that is in cigarettes but not in vaging?

        1. MayLou*

          Vaping. VAPING. My goodness. They’d better not be doing tests about what people are doing with or to vaginas.

        2. Goose Lavel*

          When was the last time you had a required blood test for nicotine levels for insurance cost determination?
          Yep, didn’t think so.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Did you not read the letter? It was optional, but yes that’s what they were doing.

          2. Eliza*

            OP2 specifically mentions that their employer does blood tests on employees and checks nicotine levels for insurance purposes. Regardless of how common it may or may not be in general, it’s a relevant concern for the OP in particular.

          3. Doug Judy*

            At both my and my husband’s employers we take yearly biometric for our insurance and they do a blood screen for many things, including nicotine. At my husband’s work the premiums are tied to how healthy you are overall. Nicotine use will ding you the most. At my work, premiums aren’t tied to health, everyone pays the same, but how much my employer contributes to your HSA is linked to your biometric score.

          4. Turquoisecow*

            My old company required this. I had to go for a blood test every year which tested only for indicators of nicotine, in case I had taken up smoking in the last twelve months.

            A coworker called to complain to HR because she was on the patch trying to quit smoking and hadn’t smoked in some time, but the blood test obviously was positive.

            Prior to that, they just had people sign a form saying they didn’t smoke, but obviously people lied.

          5. Goose Lavel*

            Looks like I’m truly wrong. Do they test for marijuana and opiods as well?
            I’d imagine that having these in your system would also determine your insurance cost.
            I’m sure DNA testing is next.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              At my company, they didn’t. But they did claim to do random drug tests. I never saw it happen but I suppose if they suspected they could have one.

              This was a few years back before opioid addiction became a serious known issue, though.

            2. Psyche*

              Here they do. That won’t determine your insurance cost though. You will be fired if you come back positive (I’m assuming that there are exceptions if you have a prescription for an opioid).

          6. KarenK*

            When my hospital was making us prove it (they now take our word for it), the test performed was called a cotinine test, and it was done on the urine. They gave that up a few years back. I think they came to the conclusion that paying to test upwards of 7,000 people was probably cost-prohibitive.

      2. Gymmie*

        Vaping is actually very dangerous, and the batteries can blow off your face. Kids can get them easily. If there are contaminents they become super concentrated and the dosage you are getting is very high. I’m in risk management of these types of products. Vapes are one of the things we won’t touch, and we insure oil rigs, gun manufactures, and marijuana products.

      3. Liane*

        “It may be many years before the FDA issues any health warnings regarding vaping nicotine”
        The Centers for Disease Control are already on this. “Search CDC and vaping”

        1. lemon*

          The CDC’s website states that more research is needed to understand the long-term health effects, but also that “e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.”

          (Yes, I read about the CDC recently investigating potential vaping-related cases of lung disease. But that’s 1. very preliminary and 2. what the CDC does… investigate diseases. They also investigated 13 cases of AFM this year, 12 people getting sick on an airplane last year, 97 people who got sick on a cruise ship in 2016, etc.)

      4. Goose Lavel*

        Nicotine is no longer detectable in blood or urine after 4 days. So if a smoker can tough it out before a blood test, you would be classified a non-smoker by your health insurance

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          If the average smoker could go four days they wouldn’t be a smoker anymore. It’s those first three days that are bad.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The healthcare organization I work for also bans smoking on site and during your shift at all even off site. I work in a non patient facing facility and the rules apply across the board. I also think it’s a good thing.

      As for the insurance premiums, I agree with Alison that healthcare shouldn’t be tied to employment, but I’m not going to get too up in arms about smokers paying more (and I am a former smoker).

    6. WellRed*

      I don’t think $50 is a lot, all things considered. I know people who oay that much to smoke each week. Bu, not sure it’s a great idea
      Slippery slopes.

      1. willow*

        Would you think it was a better idea if they offered a $50 a month discount to the non smokers vs a $50 penalty for the smokers?

        1. Psyche*

          Most places that is what they call it. However, since they usually increase premium costs to then offer the discount, it is essentially the same thing.

        2. A*

          Yes! if executed properly. I haven’t smoked in over a decade, but my first employer had a similar arrangement and it was much for manageable to know that my coworkers were getting a slightly ‘non-smoker’ discount than if money had been taken out of the paycheck.

            1. Delphine*

              How is that your point? It makes no difference how it’s framed, it’s a terrible practice either way.

              1. willow*

                Because people in a few threads here don’t support it when it is framed as a penalty but do if it is framed as a reward.

                It is the same thing, but one doesn’t sound “nice”

      2. Risha*

        I have no idea how my stepfather manages to both smoke and eat on his tiny amount of social security. (He won’t take my money or I’d be helping out.) Trust me, $50 is a significant percentage of his budget.

    7. LaraC*

      My only issue with surcharges for smoking is where will it end? Will there be surcharges for obese people? People who have drug addictions? High cholesterol? A few years ago my husband’s company started a “required” program where he had to submit to a blood test, weight and height measurements and blood pressure screening or face a $500 per month surcharge. Then if your BMI was considered overweight or obese you were forced to enroll in their “healthy life” program. First, BMI is not always indicative of health. Second, it was a huge invasion of privacy. Even though they claimed his employer wouldn’t know the individual results of the employees, how can you trust that is the truth? Additionally while smoking is not healthy, it doesn’t always equal to health problems. I take a biologic medication twice per month that costs my insurance $5k. That’s about $65k per year. Nothing I did to cause this illness. My fear is when will employers start to require your health status before allowing you to enroll in their insurance?

      1. Marny*

        The only reason smoking is singled out is because the ACA singles out smoking as something that affects insurance rates. No other conditions are considered (this is why people with pre-existing conditions can finally have healthcare coverage). If the ACS goes away, then yes, they can consider other issues in assessing insurance premiums. But for now, smoking is all that matters.

      2. Old Millenial*

        For a while, our company had a surcharge for smoking or obesity. Then smoking and obesity became an additive surcharge. Smokers and the obese could participate in a variety of programs to earn their discounts, and eventually the alternative program became mandatory for everyone and was hugely invasive. Dates of various preventive medical screens, recording all your metabolic numbers, etc. Suddenly a bunch of skinny non smokers were having to jump through the same hoops as the obese and they were pissed, because surprise surprise, plenty of skinny non smokers are in terrible health. Eventually, as has been the case for almost all of these “wellness” initiatives, it was proven to not lower costs and was scrapped.

        1. Old Millenial*

          On the one hand this is all really invasive an annoying. On the other hand I really can’t blame employers for trying to lower healthcare costs. They’re the ones shouldering the majority of the cost and on top of that it drives their talent pool. If they don’t spend a significant amount of money, or they are not able to negotiate for particularly good rates, then they turn around and have to deal with a less-than-stellar applicant pool.

          Another way that employers try to impact this was by going to high-deductible plans. The idea being that only those with high healthcare utilization would have the higher costs of the deductibles. But it’s been found that while they look like they’re saving money for years 1 through 4 at the end of five years or longer they typically have about a 30% higher spend and then people who are on non high-deductible accounts. This is because people avoid preventable testd such as catscans ultrasounds etc that could find items that medicine or lifestyle changes could impact early on before they become dire.

          In the end I really think that employers need out of healthcare. Private insurance is what’s driving up the cost at health Care systems pretty much across-the-board. And until we get a government option of some sort we’re just going to continue to see this sort of thing.

          The next new and shiny thing that employers are looking to do is limit which hospitals employers are allowed to go too. So say the Walmarts of USA are determining that this one hospital in Chicago is the only place anyone is allowed to go for back surgery so they send you there. It’s a cluster.

          1. Quill*

            I can if they’re buying into the myth that BMI indicates health in any way. God knows what bad science they’re using to determine your “healthiness.”

          2. nonymous*

            The high deductible plans are reasonable when people are in a relatively healthy phase of their life, usually a combo of good genetics and age, and their primary usage is wellness/catastrophic. However if people develop chronic illness and as they age into needing more complex screening, there is a need for traditional plans. And then there are those with ongoing costly care issues that need extended coverage. In a large company it’s really common to have a cafeteria of options to cover this range of need, because of the diversity of the employment pool.

            But it’s a challenge for smaller companies to negotiate rates across multiple plan types, and individual employees also need to pick the plan that is appropriate for their needs. Unfortunately for employees who are in a plateau phase of income growth, this could mean a cut in take-home pay.

            And I think it’s shameful that as a country we offload this risk assessment to individuals, because it’s clearly a non-trivial question even when scaled up (when modeling tools and demographic trends can be used).

          3. pancakes*

            “…I really can’t blame employers for trying to lower healthcare costs.”

            Why not? They could instead advocate for universal coverage that isn’t tied to employment at all. Looking at how much the US spends on healthcare vs. countries that have universal care, that would be cheaper for all of us. Choosing not to see that isn’t neutral or blameless.

            1. willow*

              how exactly is a small business as an “advocate for universal coverage” going to change anything at all in their current healthcare pool. This is a real problem right now, that has significant effects on current employees and potential employees.

              I want to reduce the costs of my companies insurance, and I also don’t want to be involved in my employee’s insurance at all. I can send a letter to my congressman, but my employees are not going to feel that in their paychecks.

          4. Jadelyn*

            Do you happen to have a link or can point me to the research you mention on the problem with HDHPs? Not because I disbelieve you, but because I’ve been campaigning for my employer to switch from the HDHP to a proper healthcare plan, and I’d love some more evidence to back my argument.

            1. pancakes*

              One small tidbit, but maybe a place to start: A study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice earlier this month found that cancer survivors with HDHPs were more likely to experience delayed or forgone care.

              More broadly speaking, the EPI has a lot of research on the economics of US healthcare and looks like it could be a good resource:

        2. LaraC*

          You’re right about the pre-existing condition thing. It’s a good way to look at it. I am definitely terrified about that being done away with. I guess I just dislike the idea of an employer getting up in my business if am a smoker or not (which I am not). Also, seems like a lot of things employers do with wellness and health insurance aren’t actually vetted properly. These “wellness” programs haven’t been proven to do much of anything in terms of health. People who are considered “obese” can actually be healthy and a “skinny” person could have all sorts of medical ailments. Sigh. It’s all so wacky!

      3. Cheesy*

        I worked at a place that DID have surcharges on your insurance for other unhealthy things in your life. Every year you had to go in for a physical WITH blood work, and if you hit too many out of their scale you had a choice of either paying higher premiums or joining their wellness program. With the wellness program it ran for like 3 months and was entirely self-directed (you got sent a box of things and had a website where you watched a weekly video and took a test on the topics covered) and then at the end you had a 2nd physical and as long as you showed improvement you got to keep the lower premiums.

        I had to do it one year and I really did learn quite a bit from it, but I wasn’t happy with the whole situation. (To be fair though, our insurance was awesome and the premiums were REALLY low. No other insurance I’ve had has come close in coverage, premiums or out of pockets)

        I will comment on BMI, it is a horrendously inaccurate measurement and I still don’t understand why health professionals continue to use it. My body build does not fit the base model so no matter what I do I will literally always be overweight/obese on the scale (I have a long torso and very wide shoulders with shorter than average legs for my height). I’ve had the thorough tests of body mass and the like where they actually looked at me instead of my height/weight on a piece of paper, and if I had 0% body fat I would still have a BMI of over 26, and go into the obese category at 13% body fat (most sources I have seen quote under 20% as still healthy).

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, pretty much the same. I have absurdly sturdy bones and my BMI was coming in as “overweight” when I was a new teen mostly made of muscle from building sets for school plays. (It was probably registering as higher then, than now, given how much more muscle weighs than fat…) If my doctor was giving any credence to BMI I wouldn’t still be seeing him.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Yup! I did a DEXA scan once to help calibrate the machines at work. While I could lose some chub, the woman doing the test was mostly just telling me that I had the densest muscles she’s ever seen in someone’s calf. *Proud*

          1. Quill*

            Yeah. “Your calves are like rocks.”
            “Thanks, they’re stabilizing my feet, which are made of stale pasta.”

          2. Old Biddy*

            I’m a woman who’s 5’6″. I had multiple DEXA’s when I participated in a diet study. Turns out my lean body mass is 130 lbs, which goes a long way to explain why I didn’t get my periods when I weighed less than 145 lbs. At 155 my BMI is considered overweight.
            FWIW I’m muscular, have a long torso/short legs, wide shoulders, and a touch of scoliosis, which knocks an inch or two off my height.

            1. Quill*

              I don’t remember if we’re allowed to cuss here but holy forking shirtballs, BMI at 5’6″ wants you to be 155 or under?

              I’m 5’4″ and would not have been capable of functioning / probably wouldn’t have had enough body fat to have a period at 155. (Yay dinosaur scale bones.)

              Long torso, short legs, wide shoulders / ribcage here too. Flat feet as well, if I had arches I might be up to an inch taller…

            2. Cheesy*

              The last time I had mine checked, my lean body mass was 190 lbs. I would cross over to obese on the BMI scale at 215 lbs.

              (Both my parents swear up and down that when I was born the Dr. didn’t say “It’s a boy” they said “Look at the shoulders on that kid!” Credence to this is that the Dr. had to break my collar bone to get me out of the birth canal. I’m wearing a tiny sling in my newborn photos. When I got married I got a rental tux and wasn’t able to get it altered beyond hems and cuffs. It fit great in my shoulders, but I had so much room in the stomach area that I was able to button my best man in with me.)

        3. LaraC*

          Cheesy, YES! I work in healthcare and this drives me crazy! BMI is so inaccurate. It does nothing to determine one’s health and just ends up making people feel bad about themselves.

        4. Liz*

          that’s interesting because while i AM overweight, i am built just as you describe yourself. And even when I put in a lower weight for my height, my BMI still comes out higher than it should be. to get it down to an “acceptable” number, i have to put in a weight that is pretty much impossible for me to hit. so while I am considered obese, if you go by my BMI, I’m generally pretty healthy.

          even as a child, i weighed more than a lot of my peers, but wasn’t overweight at all at that time.

          1. Cheesy*

            I always thought of myself as the “Fat Kid” growing up. I had a lot of skinnier friends and the one or two who had been heavier when we were younger had growth spurts and slimmed down as they got taller. I weighed more than them, so I was fat. I had a bit of a belly and my best friend had the start of a 6-pack, so I was fat. I wore a size XL shirt and they all wore mediums or larges, so I was fat.

            I never looked at it until much later in life that I had a very different body build than my friends. I had hit a growth spurt too and slimmed down, but I wasn’t as active/athletic and so never burned off the last bit of belly pooch. I wore XL shirts because they fit my shoulders and chest well, but practically billowed around my stomach. I wore 36″ waist pants when I graduated high school. Even knowing that I still thought I was fat in school. It wasn’t until just the last year or so when I was looking at old photos with a casual friend and he exclaimed how skinny I was that I really looked closer and saw the truth of it. (I know I am overweight now by any standard. I am working on it and have dropped almost 40 lbs in the last few months.)

      4. Michelle*

        We have something similar where I work. If you participate in the “wellness program”, you get a discount on insurance. Once a year we have to do a “wellness screening” where they do height, weight, BMI, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. and you get put in a low, moderate or high risk category. That determines how many times you have to meet with the “healthy coach” and how many “healthy breaks” you have to attend per year. They also say they don’t release your results to the company, so if the company doesn’t know your results, how do they know if you are attending the required number of coaching sessions and healthy breaks per year to qualify for the discount? Also, there is no consideration for any type of chronic illness, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, etc. People with those types of illnesses are most likely seeing a doctor and since the doctor knows the patient much better than the healthy coach, requiring these folks see the healthy coach to discuss their conditions is useless. The healthy coaches do not have to have a medical degree* of any kind so I don’t think they should be trying to advise people with chronic illnesses.

        * Most of the healthy coaches are “fitness instructors” and only 1 had a degree in nutrition.

        1. Quill*

          I’d have torn most fitness instructors a new orifice after a few months. People with actual medical degrees have given me advice on my problems already.

          1. Michelle*

            One healthy coach (that was a fitness instructor) thought it was a great idea to use the 30 minute healthy break to have people do stretches and “mild exercise” at work (while wearing work clothes). The stretches were ok until she wanted us to lay in floor and use a exercise band to do some sort of leg stretches. I said no. Then she wanted us to do jumping jacks and I couldn’t lift my arm over my head due to a shoulder injury, so she said since I couldn’t do anything I should just go back to my desk. I did. I called HR and the coaching company and complained. I was told since I had an injury, I could be “excused” from doing any exercise related healthy breaks until I was healed.

            I don’t like the wellness program, but I do it anyway because I get to pay $600 per year for insurance instead of $1200 per year.

        2. LaraC*

          Michelle, yup. These “healthy coaches” are typically laypeople who have zero medical background. My company has an optional wellness program where you can earn money to buy gift cards, but most of the activities are on your own (checking into a gym, logging that you were grateful that day). We can earn up to $200 in gift cards, which is awesome (and I totally did it) but the only benefit I received (besides the gift cards) was a great meditation training (that actually was created by licensed counseling people).

          The real problem is the high cost of healthcare, period. It’s not about utilization or wellness (although being well is a good thing, obviously). Even preventative medicine costs money. Congress does not want to address the fact that a knee replacement surgery in Chicago does NOT cost the same in Columbus or that insulin should not cost $500 per month. Penalizing smokers (or “obese” people or whoever) does not make it so that healthcare is cheaper for all. Just maybe that particular company.

            1. Marmaduke*

              Three days ago I was hospitalized with a bad case of pancreatitis. I sat outside the ER entrance wiping away tears of pain so I could see my phone well enough to confirm that the hospital I stood outside was in network for my insurance, so that this visit would only put us in debt for a year or two rather than bankrupt us. It is a ludicrously broken system.

              1. Quill*

                I feel you, my insurance that “covered” a yearly GP visit paid for about $13 of it, I live in dread of the not-too-far-off day that I’ll need anything else that’s normal and “covered”

              2. LaraC*

                Marmaduke, I’m so sorry this happened to you. This should NOT happen to anyone. I hope you are feeling better today and continue to feel better! Also, try speaking with the hospital’s “charity care” / billing department about your bill. Most hospitals offer a discount or even forgive the balance due to financial hardship, even if you have insurance. It’s worth looking into.

          1. willow*

            “Penalizing smokers (or “obese” people or whoever) does not make it so that healthcare is cheaper for all. Just maybe that particular company.”

            The idea is to make it cheaper for that particular company, because your individual premium is based on the pool of the company, and how many smokers the company employs is a large factor. So penalizing smokers may not decrease their health costs, but if you can get enough of them to quit or find other employment the group rates should go down.

            1. LaraC*

              Willow, indeed. Which sucks. I suspect insurance companies tally up the claims for each employer’s plans at the end of the year and present it to the employer to show them the amount spent for the company as a whole. Then they base the future year’s premium cost on that. The more people use the insurance and/or have illnesses or whatever the more the premiums will go up. It’s never about making sure people are healthy. They just don’t want you to use the insurance, period.

              1. willow*

                That is exactly right. they call it a “Loss Ratio”

                I have to argue on my employees behalf about the claims: “That was a one time surgery with no after effects so you cant really count that toward future costs….” kind of thing. It is horrible and sets up companies to start looking at their employees by their medical profile.

                And then, at the end of the year, after paying a fortune for the insurance and being told it is going to increase X%, we will get a letter from the carrier that says they made more profit than the government determined they are allowed to, so here is our refund check. An each employee gets a few cents to few bucks back. It truly is terrible.

                1. LaraC*

                  Totally. I am sure they know exactly who is costing them money, too. I for one know I am costing my insurance so much money. I take a biologic, which is a super expensive drug ($5k per month) that my insurance pays for. I am so grateful they do and that my copay is only $40. But I highly suspect that once this year is over and they see how much it increased (I started the medication in Nov 2019) they are either going to remove it as a formulary and I will have to start another drug, or premiums will increase significantly. I can’t even believe the drug costs that much either. It’s just a mess all around. And companies have latched onto smokers as the “bad people”.

                2. willow*

                  Thankfully it would be super illegal for them to do anything to harm you or run you off because of the medical expenses. And they *shouldnt* know it is you specifically unless you have shared that information with someone. The insurance company cant identify the claims anyway.

                  But these are enormous drawbacks and risks for employees under this system. I had never considered these drawbacks until I started working around our healthcare enrollment.

                3. pancakes*

                  Willow, there are all sorts of companies that do all sorts of super illegal things all the time. Have you ever looked at the frequency of, say, wage theft in the restaurant industry?

                  The idea that insurance companies can’t or don’t identify claims on any sort of individual level is equally naive. Years ago I filed a complaint with my state attorney general about my old insurance company and a few days later received a phone call from from an executive complaining that it was unfair and asking me to drop it. (I didn’t, of course, and they’ve since gone out of business for reasons not directly related to my complaint).

      5. FD*

        I’m honestly really uncomfortable with the entire thing. We look at those things as “Well, people choose to be [x],” but these things don’t happen in a vaccuum. Cigarette companies have done their damnedest to get and keep people addicted to the things, and it’s not like they haven’t known about the bad effects. The sheer amount of sugar added by manufacturers to a LOT of foods is probably contributing an awful lot to people becoming more obese.

        There’s also a rather…icky implication in charging more for these sorts of things. There’s a very strong correlation between cigarette use and income, and between obesity and income. So at least in effect, it sure comes off as another way to make life more expensive for people who are already on the edge financially.

        1. Pommette!*

          I am also uncomfortable with the entire thing, for the same reason.

          Who’s at risk for starting to smoke, and for developing nicotine addiction? People who suffer from mental illness. People who face a lot of stress and don’t have access to other forms of physical or emotional comfort. People who have neurological differences (ADHD, FAS, etc.). People who live in poverty. People who have had limited access to education. I live in an area where income, educational, and health disparities are much starker than in the country as a whole, and see evidence of this every day. I worked on an academic campus for a long time. You almost never saw professors or higher-level administrators smoke; the smokers tended to be people who were making a less than-living wage doing food service and janitorial jobs, and lower-level administrators. The idea that the person making $20,00 a year and experiencing greater health needs should be paying more for health insurance than the healthier person making five times more is frankly disturbing.

          If you want to stop people from smoking, give them access to excellent and comprehensive healthcare, and to interventions that will help them stop.

      6. willow*

        Like Alison said in the letter, employers funding this is a terrible system. I handle our companies insurance enrollment and administration and fully back that up. We want nothing to do with this!!!

        And like you said, it isn’t really fair to start nit picking about individual expenses or lifestyle choices, but is it fair to the group of employees when one person raises the price for the group dramatically? No! If your coworkers and employers are funding that $65K per year, which they are, it isnt fair to them either. The employer knows this, and knows that expense would go away without you.

        It is a terrible situation and the only way out is getting employers away from healthcare all together. Employees are at risk for abuse by the employer, and employees are penalized for health events their coworkers face (in small pools, this can be extremely obvious who caused what). I would so much rather receive the additional pay from my employer to buy individual coverage, than be at their mercy and the mercy of my coworkers for my insurance.

        1. pancakes*

          “And like you said, it isn’t really fair to start nit picking about individual expenses or lifestyle choices…” Odd that you expressed support for precisely this elsewhere in these comments, when you said, for example, “If you were born with diabetes, and took care of yourself, you should pay less than someone with the same disease that doesn’t.” How do you square these two conflicting views? And how do you envision insurance providers assessing whether people are taking care of themselves without intensive nit-picking?

          1. willow*

            Because the first quote “And like you said, it isn’t really fair [For employers] to start nit picking about individual expenses or lifestyle choices…”

            And the second “If you were born with diabetes, and took care of yourself, you should pay [Insurance Carriers] less than someone with the same disease that doesn’t.”

            Take them out of context and they are contradictory. Read them in context and they are congruent.

            The overlying theme of my comments? Get employers out of the equation, let people shop for insurance privately, buy as much or as little as they need, and be evaluated based on their risk. The government subsidizes insurance and forces carriers to cover everyone now… cap/subsidize the premium at a certain level and away we go. Perfect? NO! Better than the employer system? YES!

            1. pancakes*

              I wasn’t asking about the theme of your comments. Again, I was asking how you square those two conflicting ideas, and how you envision insurance providers assessing whether people are taking care of themselves without being insufferably overbearing.

              1. willow*

                I square it like this. Employers should have nothing to do with our health or lifestyle or choices outside of work. Insurance companies should because that is exactly the business they are in.

                I think it is appropriate for employers to shift the rates in cut and dry, legally acceptable places. Smoking is the only example I am aware of that makes any sense (it is information employees have to give regardless of the company policy). They are not doing it to morally weigh in on their employee’s health, but to hopefully dissuade people from smoking, which increases everyone rates, and to make sure people have some skin in the game and are aware of how their actions impact the group.

                I do not think employers should have any more access to our medical information than they already do (basically nothing, other than smoking status). Employers shouldn’t be weighing employees or taking blood pressure to determine rates. Insurance carriers should and do.

                Is that more clear?

                1. pancakes*

                  If anything it’s less clear, because much of what you’ve said here is, from where I sit, arbitrary and ad hoc. Smoking isn’t cut and dried—it’s arguably far more intrusive, for example, to draw blood from employees or have someone monitor them on breaks than it is to have their BMI calculated. It isn’t at all clear, either, where you’d draw the line with insurance companies, or whether you’d want to. CPAP machines, for example, can and do transmit user data to insurers via wifi. If someone isn’t using their machine as directed, should the insurer stop covering it? Demand reimbursement? Why is a pattern of poor sleep categorically of less interest to an employer than a pattern of smoking? A train conductor who’s had a terrible night’s sleep, for example, is arguably more dangerous (and to a larger group of people) than one who smokes. I’m not asking for answers to these questions, to be clear, and the answers almost certainly wouldn’t address my broader question, which is why those of you who are in favor of this system of apportioning costs prefer it to systems that are more equitable and less intrusive.

                2. Willow*

                  The smoking issue couldn’t be more cut and dry. It’s a checkbox. This is not hypothetical this is happening right now.

                  “Have you used tobacco products in the last 12 months”
                  Yes or no.
                  “How often”
                  Series of options.
                  This is how it works. And that is why it works.

                3. Baru Cormorant*

                  Willow–if all it takes is “check this box to save money” then everyone will say they’re a non smoker.
                  That’s why there are blood tests, which are ridiculous (nicotine patches come up as positive) and invasive. That’s the problem we’re getting at here.

                4. willow*

                  There has never been a blood test for health insurance where I work, and I am not aware of that happening to anyone I know. But I do know if you lie about that, or any other health condition for other types of insurance, they are going to straight deny your ass on any claims that have to do with the condition in question.

    8. A*

      Agreed. The part that makes me super uncomfortable about OP’s letter is the testing. I know it’s the employers right to do so, but personally I feel it crosses the line. I feel the same way about drug testing. Unless the need is tied to very specific job reasons (drug testing for heavy equipment operators, nicotine testing for health care providers etc.), I find it to be incredibly invasive.

      Every employer I’ve worked for has had an additional monthly fee for smokers (or individuals with smokers on their company insurance plan). But they’ve all been honor system based. Not a perfect system, but since they’ve always been tied to the ability to take smoke breaks (off site), it’s seemed to work fairly well. I refuse to work for an employer that feels it’s appropriate to test my bodily fluids without due cause, regardless of whether I smoke or not.

  4. Lilith*

    The smoking/insurance thing is getting out of hand. It’s going into marijuana town I suspect. Why don’t insurance companies charge more for the overweight or those who don’t exercise or those who have 5+ children? I don’t have any answers& I’m not a smoker, but I get a bit tired of smokers being the boogey men in a lot of what we read.

    1. Sally*

      They try to! My old company required us to do a biometric screening, and if you didn’t pass (and/or if you smoked), you had to do five phone calls with a nurse to try to get your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. within the parameters they thought were healthy.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*


        I have a BMI that is “obese”. It has been like that since puberty. Other kids broke out with acne, I broke out with fat. I played sports in High School. I was still fat. I rode my bike 5+ miles every day the fist couple years of college. I was still fat. I had a job that had me on my feet all shift. I was still fat.

        My first diet was in my early teens – my mother decided that “we” were going to do Weight Watchers. Her solution was strict portion control and no available snacks. She cheated, I starved. I was still fat (in fact my weight went higher). In high school, I was malnourished – I could pull my hair out by the handful, my “lunch” was a little bag of Doritos and a Mr. Pibb. I rode my bike to school every day. We had carefully portion restricted dinners at home. I was still fat.

        Every time I have tried any form of diet, calorie restriction, or “lifestyle change” I lose maybe five pounds, then after a few months start ravenously binging because the hunger pangs are so painful and I can’t function. After every stupid diet, I weight more than when I started.

        I won’t participate in the wellness farce at work. It’s just not their business to get my numbers, or “counsel” me on my health.

        I’m disabled, and get so sick and tired of some able-bodied never-sick-a-day skinny busybody telling me how to live. The medical profession is the same, citing “common knowledge” like I supposedly never heard it: “You’re fat! You’re gonna get diabetes and die! I bet your blood pressure is high and you have high cholesterol because you’re FAT!!!” (My BP is normal, so is my cholesterol.) “Calories in, calories out, you know, it’s really that simple” (No, it’s not, because I’d be a skinny twig already if that worked.) I have a family history of some weird allergies, Hashimoto’s, IBS and late adult onset diabetes (regardless of BMI.) I have yet to find anyone capable or competent to look at the entire medical history and not just spout textbook glurge that is being disproven daily, but not paid attention to.

        The last thing I want is for my employer to get in on the farce.

    2. we're basically gods*

      They…. do charge more for being overweight. And for not exercising, in some cases, depending on the workplace.

    3. ACDC*

      I’m confused by your 5+ children point. If those children are all on health insurance, of course they would pay more because they are all being covered?

      1. willow*

        In most cases a family policy is a family policy. Same rates with any number of children (there is a cap, but its high).

        1. Risha*

          I have never in my life seen a cap on the number of covered children, though I have seen people hit a systematic limit and have to be handled manually (we usually set it at 20). Admittedly, I’ve generally only worked with very large companies’ health plans.

          1. willow*

            Small company here and I think our standard family policy is up to 5 kids? then it is an additional increase per child or something to that effect. I mean it makes sense… someone with one kid paying the same price for coverage that covers someone else with 10 is interesting.

    4. willow*

      Because of the ACA says they can charge smokers specifically.

      Now you cannot buy a true insurance policy for health insurance. You are forced to buy one that covers everything! No one buys car insurance that covers oil changes and new tires. But that is what we have for health insurance. I would love to save my ~$1400 a month I pay in premiums and just pay my doctor what it costs for a checkup or vaccine. I only want insurance to kick in when shit hits the fan!

      I hate to think about all the $ I would have saved over the years that have been put into premiums, compared to the services my family has actually needed.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        There used to be catastrophic coverage. I know that when I was in college my mom paid for that. So, extremely high deductible because of course she was taking care of me (and I was in general good health) but if I landed in the hospital it was covered.

        Does that no longer exist, or is it just not often available?

        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          It does exist, but that’s not usually what your employer offers. You’d have to buy it separately.

          1. willow*

            Employers are not allowed to offer only catastrophic anymore. ACA mandates what minimum coverage is, which is very detailed. That was one of the big selling points of the ACA that everyone would have “premium” coverage now.

            One of those is no out of pocket costs on well checks.

    5. pancakes*

      You don’t have to pick a different category of people to be alternate bogeymen, you know. There are other, better ways of providing healthcare.

      1. willow*

        Like ignoring expenses all together? “There are other, better ways of providing healthcare” – well…don’t keep it a secret!

        1. pancakes*

          Ignoring expenses would be senseless and isn’t advocated by a single soul as far as I’m aware. There’s a very good BBC Radio 4 series on the history of the NHS that was broadcast last summer to coincide with its 70th anniversary, and the episodes appear to still be available for download or streaming. That would be a good place to start.

        2. pancakes*

          I won’t keep banging on about this, but wanted to mention something that popped up in my twitter feed this morning. Per World Bank data, health expenditure as % of GDP (2015):
          US 16.84%
          Germany 11.15%
          Canada 10.44%
          Denmark 10.33%
          UK 9.88%
          Australia 9.45%

          If you want to start researching this, looking at how those countries are spending much less and covering far more people would be a good place to start.

  5. Zombie Unicorn*

    #4 You mentioned that you’ll miss the volunteers you’ve gotten to know in the course of your role – so it sounds like if you volunteer, you’ll interact with your replacement. I would do that person a favour and leave it a bit longer before you think about volunteering, because otherwise it might indeed seem like you’re that person who’s still hanging around.

    Plus starting a new job can be pretty exhausting, and leaving an old one can change the dynamic a lot. I would give it longer, like at least six months before deciding personally.

    1. Bree*

      And, if possible, try to volunteer in a completely different capacity than your former paid work. So if you did admin or communications, now just do the hands-on work with clients (or whatever). Think of it as an entirely new and separate role, and push back against any instinct to blur that line. It will be better for you and your replacement.

    2. Volunteer-er*

      Thank you for your opinion! That is one of the things I was worried about, so I was considering volunteering on weekends at first (the job is M-F, but the agency is open 7 days/week) in order to give that person more space.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Thanks for popping back in OP4 — and your weekend idea could help a lot, especially if you decline to answer the inevitable questions people bring you. “You should ask Lucretia that on Monday, because it’s her candy stand now. Things change, and I’m not in a position to know what’s up anymore.”

    3. Museum Director*

      I would advise against volunteering at the organization as there is a real possibility of making work very difficult for the new person. I know this from experience. At my last job as a museum director, the person who held the job before me still hung around. She and I had very different management styles, educational backgrounds, skill sets, and presence in the community. Her continued involvement and interactions with my board, made it very difficult for me to institute necessary (and in some cases legal) change. And the constant comparisons were awful. If you want to be friends with the volunteers, go to lunch or have a tea party, but please don’t volunteer with them.

      1. Museum Director*

        One more thought…Your volunteering with your former volunteers might make it difficult for the them to move on with the new employee as well.

  6. Zombie Unicorn*

    #3 “And he’s great at it” – is he though? His job isn’t just to figure out all the things you could and should do, but to provide the whole team with all the information and context you all need.

    I hear that you want him to prioritise, but I think you’re perhaps not asking the right questions.


    You’ve learned that if the test is ‘do we need this’ or ‘is this important’ then you’re always going to get a yes. I think you’re asking the wrong questions. For each idea, you want to be asking about things like the risks involved if you do it later vs now, the resource, cost and time involved, etc, then working out what’s needed to make it happen and whether it’s viable. Depending on your industry it might make sense to have some structured tools or processes in place to do this analysis. And then you use the data to prioritise.

    Just asking him which ones you should do is a bit unscientific. It also feels like a lot for one person to be responsible for deciding which ideas are most important to do, instead of having some kind of objective process that tests and records these decisions – don’t you want a better reason than ‘because contractor said so and he knows stuff’?

    So. Stop asking for the top 10 out of 25. Do an analysis that tells you which are the top 10. Stop asking which are most valuable or any other question where the answer could be ‘all of them’. Ask which you can achieve with x amount of time and resource, and which are riskiest to leave undone, or whatever makes sense for you. Or have other people analyse his ideas so he doesn’t have to pick which darlings to kill, if that makes sense to do.

    If you want him to get better at prioritising you need to tell him what that looks like. It means understanding that you can’t prevent every risk or achieve every improvement so you have to pick – and here are the important factors to consider when picking.

    1. Everdene*

      This is an excellent point Zombie. We all have different strengths and the person coming up with the ideas isn’t always the best one to evaluate or impliment those ideas. Having a structured list of questions to consider will give an objective way to look at this.

    2. M*

      Also, while the anonymisation has made it a bit hard to tell: it’s possible, given we’re talking about someone whose job it is to assess “whether old designs are still durable” that there are some real issues of liability and accountability at play here. i.e. if a significant number of your old designs have flaws that these days would fail quality testing/in some other way make them seriously sub-standard, your employee may be – very legitimately – worried that if they tell you “we can hold off on these 10 fixes”, they’ll be held accountable, or even financially/criminally liable when something goes wrong. If any of that sounds plausible, you need to have a *much* more open conversation with this employee than it sounds like you have had so far, not least because if you’re shutting down his requested fixes, *you* may be taking on accountability/liability when something goes wrong.

    3. OP3*

      Thank you! Your suggestions are very thoughtful. I hear you on it being a lot of responsibility to make those recommendations and decisions; I rely on his expertise (which I don’t have and he is generous about sharing) and ultimately I call the shots for the team. I love your idea of supplying more specific criteria than “most important.” I think we could get a lot of mileage out of doing so.

      1. Blue*

        OW, I know how frustrated this guy is. I had someone on my team just like him with a similar role. No amount of coaching could make him set priorities -it was all equally very important. I finally concluded that it was a personality trait and immutable.

        However, he had many other strengths and a depth of knowledge that made him an asset, once I weighed all out. So I did the prioritization and let him do what he is good at.

        I’m sure his inability to change limited his career prospects but he retired a few years ago and is living the good life in Arizona. The team does miss his expertise.

      2. President Porpoise*

        You might consider using the SAFe methodology – it’s helped people in my workplace quite a bit.

    4. NW Mossy*

      As someone who manages and works with “why can’t we do All The Things?!” minds, the thing that’s made the most impact in channeling them is being very clear about two things – objectives and constraints.

      I often find that individual contributors (by the nature of their jobs) tend to have a periscope view of things – they see what crosses their path, but there’s also large sections of the landscape that they can’t see because their field of view is limited. This isn’t a problem necessarily, but if it isn’t combined with a clear understanding that there’s more to the work than what they themselves see, you can end up with distorted assessments of what’s a priority.

      The best counterweight I’ve found to this is to talk openly and often about what we’re trying to do as an organization, and what limits us in that pursuit. My department has a goal to increase our capacity for work by 10-15% this year, but we’re also working on reducing headcount to hold down expenses. As a result, I’m prioritizing ideas that reduce the time/effort it takes to complete our work, because that approach furthers the objective (getting more done) while staying within the constraint (not adding staff).

      Showing that thinking to people consistently helps them get it, and ultimately gets them more engaged in the process. They start doing some idea filtering themselves by not even bringing the no-hopers to you (the budget-busters, etc.), and as they bring better ideas, their success rate in getting them taken up improves. They also start to learn how to build the case for an idea in terms that decision-makers will readily understand, which is a vital skill for people who want to build credibility and influence.

    5. AD*

      You need metrics. Something you can measure that will let you rank improvements against each other. Return on investment of time and money, safety concerns, market size for new product, projected increase in durability, something like that. If you can get tech guy to see them as variables inside a bigger system (your team), you might even get him begrudgingly on board with it.

  7. Zipzap*

    #1 – I can MAYBE see someone just being curious and looking it up, but printing out your house info to keep in their folder about you? Yes – creepy and weird. If they felt free enough to do that, you have to wonder about what kind of “research” they might do if you were hired.

    1. Linguist*

      OK, look. Maybe OP lives in a beautiful old house that is just perfect for the main character of the novel that this interviewer is penning in her downtime, so they had to print it out.

      Yep, this is how far I had to reach to find a benign explanation……..

      1. Cheesy*

        I grew up in a really cool historic (for the area) house. We didn’t have signs out front or anything but we usually got at least 1 visitor a year, especially after the local foundation discovered it (we were out in the country). My parents didn’t mind as they like showing it off.

        I grew up near where Sears and Roebuck originated, so we had a local Sears Foundation, and the house itself was bought out of a Sears catalog in 1912, delivered as a pre-cut and measured kit by train to the local town, and pulled out to the building site 3 miles away by ox-cart where it was assembled like a giant Lego set. The foundation discovered our house and got permission from my parents to use photos for their displays and literature.

        So MAYBE if I went to work for Sears in high school I could see them having a picture of my Sears house, but that’s as far as I could think that one for non-freakalicious reasons.

      2. boo bot*

        Maybe the interviewer has been wanting to buy the OP’s house for years, and finally hatched a plan: she worked her way up in the company until she could create a position – and a job ad – tailor-made for the OP, and now she’s finally gotten her in for an interview. The next step is to hire her, and from there, the plan has two contingencies: either promote her and give her such a big raise that she’s inspired to move to a more expensive house (so the interviewer can buy the old one) or, fire her unexpectedly, sending her into financial ruin, and the interviewer can swoop in to buy the house before the bank forecloses.

        …wait, did you say benign?

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Maybe even pay for their own background check (outside of whatever the company does I mean)?

    3. Clisby*

      I don’t know anything about how background checks are performed, but is it possible the company hires an outside firm to do them and the photo is the house is just part of the package of information they came up with? The only reason I can think of to look up a house is to check if the owner is in bankruptcy, or the property’s subject to a tax sale (similar to the way some employers check credit histories.)

      1. Cheesy*

        But why print out a real estate listing picture? That’s not going to tell you anything about the PERSON, just about where they live. I’ve seen a fair number of background checks come through (and I live in a state where I can request a copy when they run one on me for a job) but it was always just dates and events, never photos or anything similar. Also, who does a background check BEFORE the interview?

      2. KimberlyR*

        I do background checks for people as part of my job. You have to have the current (as well as past addresses, going back 7 years) to complete the background check but what the house/apartment/domicile looks like has absolutely no bearing on it.

        1. we're basically gods*

          Ooooh, past addresses only have to go back 7 years? I’ve definitely filled out forms that don’t specify that, which cues me texting my dad to figure out the address of the place we lived for the first 18 months of my life…

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            The number of years probably varies by field. I remember having to fill out one that wanted 10 years of old address information, which in my case at that time included a period of being semi-homeless and bouncing between increasingly sketchy hotel rooms due to lack of being able to secure a summer rental in the Bay Area when I was in college (super fun to be worried about explaining that to HR at a professional job – I couldn’t leave it off and “forget” about it even though it was only for a month or so because I held a job at the time so I’d definitely show up as “in California” for a while if they ran something that checked work history as part of the background check). I was glad when that “aged off” of my 10 year address history, although I haven’t actually needed to fill out an address history at any of my jobs since.

            This kind of address history really is differently hard for people in different kinds of circumstances. My mom has lived in the same house since 1984, which she owns outright. Someone who rents and moves a lot is both less likely to still have paperwork listing all of their old addresses and have many more to track down.

  8. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Ugh. I’m in the UK, where having a full address on a CV is pretty much the norm (as well as an email address, of course). If an interviewer had a photo of my house in folder in front of him I would definitely be asking why, exactly. Perhaps less so if it was a printout from Google StreetView (although that would still be weird as anything), but if it was an estate agent advert… that’s definitely going to be worthy of some significant questioning.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think it’s normal, but also I think it’s obsolete.

      Until maybe ten years ago your street address was how the prospective employer would contact you – a letter in the post inviting you to interview, etc.

      Now that everyone (very few outliers) has a private mobile phone and private e-mail, those are preferred methods and the street address is irrelevant. Put the useful contact details in the header of your CV and save page space for experience and accomplishments!

      1. Weegie*

        Many large organisations use an online portal for job applications now, and the applicant’s address is a required field, so there’s no getting round it in those cases. But those organisations are more likely to have proper protocols in place regarding personal data; for the others, who still use CVs and cover letter, I admit it would never occur to me to leave off my address, but there are so many data-transgression stories on here that maybe it’s time to start doing so.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I left mine off cv last time for spacing and formatting reasons! Leaving off from now on to avoid this kind of creepy behavious as well.

        2. Sally*

          I just went to check mine (and remove the address if necessary), and I discovered that it only has my email address, phone number, and LinkedIn URL. No one seemed to give it a second thought when I was interviewing last year.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      My last cv has centred name on top line and email address – mobile numer on second. That’s it.

      And I am seriously atruggling to come up with a legitimate interest defence to having a picture of my home printed out (if I had included my address).

      It’s creepy af, and if person is eu citizen, I’d bet on being illegal.

    3. Cheesy*

      I love Google Street View, but the only photo I’ve ever saved and printed off of it was when I found myself!

    4. Blunt Bunny*

      Hi I’m in the UK and was advised to leave it off about 5 years ago as employers aren’t going to be contacting you by letter but by email or mobile. I usually put the city of the places I have worked and studied though.
      I have found most online applications ask you for your address anyway.
      Also they can look you up on LinkedIn and see what city you live in.

  9. Allonge*

    LW 3, my deepest sympathies – for me it’s my manager who is like this and it’s close on intolerable.

    Obviously I have less standing than you to address it in general, but I found it useful to say: ok, that sounds interesting / important / useful or whatever: what would you like me to de-prioritise? I have x deadline that is not moveable, but project z can go later, right? And then she says either yes (rarely) or re-thinks the importance of the latest brainwave. Waiting a day or so helps sometimes (excitement about the newest shiny abates), as does demonstrating limited resources (colleague x is already overtiming like crazy, budget is reserved for project b etc.)

    It is a bit hit and miss, and I would really prefer to avoid doing this every week or so. So, again, sympathies.

  10. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #4 – I think it would be worth working your new job for a few months before starting *any* volunteer role or other significant non-work commitment. Maybe the hours will be longer, or there will be a regular Thursday evening social you want to be involved with, or you’ll be seized with enthusiasm for the new mission and want to redirect your spare capacity to a related project. You definitely don’t want to commit to something now that you’d want to withdraw from within weeks.

    1. OP 4*

      That makes sense! I will say that volunteering at my former employer does not require any commitment- volunteers are welcome to come as frequently or infrequently as they like- so it could just be a once or twice a year thing to say hello.

      1. Important Moi*

        Also, in 3 or 4 months, you may feel the same about the mission of your former organization, but may be the “friendship” aspect isn’t there they way you thought or hoped. Most work friends are situational.

        No one has to be the “villain” in this story, sometimes people just move on.

        1. Door Guy*

          Yup. I used to have long conversations and such at my last job with coworkers and direct reports (we all had to drive as part of our jobs, so we’d talk on the road). Since I left, I’ve spoken with a few of them, and had lunch with 1 of them, but we all just moved on. I really only talk to 2 of the guys at all anymore and even then not very often. All my energy has gone into my current job as well as into my family and outside pursuits that are not career related (like reconnecting with a good friend and joining his weekly gaming night)

  11. a commenter here*

    I’m not too hot on counting smoking for the purposes of insurance rates. There’s a whole gaggle of “self inflicted” (I hate that word) conditions that make one more likely to need healthcare, and we’re rightly not about legislating that down to the wire.

    Also, nicotine dependance could be argued to be not so much self inflicted as much as a condition you have and can’t get away from (in many cases) not unlike any other addiction.

    1. Stitch*

      I hate to make a slippery slope argument, but this is rife for abuse. The other thing is that a lot of the high health risk factors (smoking, obesity, dietary issues) tend to correlate with lower incomes or other socioeconomic factors.

      This is, fortunately, covered by law, but I was an extremely cheap insure until I had a baby. But that should put it into perspective. I made a personal choice that raised my health insurance costs. And health insurance companies used to charge women more for this reason, before it became illegal to do so.

      1. Ebony*

        I’m not from the US so not sure how it works but can you get charged more after having a baby? I would also argue that having a child in the US seems like it’s not always a personal choice, with efforts being made to remove any choice.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I used to work for an insurance company. If your insurance company doesn’t charge your company more for adding the first child to an insurance policy, I’d guess that “one person without child or spouse” is being charged more than they would be by another company.

            2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              So everyone pays the same amount regardless of how many members it covers?

              1. Door Guy*

                I’ve seen plans covering a gamut – single, single with dependents, just spouse, whole family. None of the ones I’ve had cared if you had 1 kid or 10 kids but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there getting that nitpicky.

                My current job only offers single or family, at a fixed rate for each regardless of how many the family plan is covering.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  Most (not all, but most) kids are actually cheap to insure. They have a tendency not to get things like congestive heart failure or kidney failure. Vaccines are cheap, and so are the negotiated rates that insurance companies pay for primary care visits.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                It can happen. They just charge the same per employee.

                However the people without dependents or spouses are then supplementing the families on the plan. Since their actual costs to the plan are lower.

              3. fhqwhgads*

                In my experience it costs the parent more, but not the company. The company pays a percentage of the employees’ premiums, and allows them to add dependents, but the employee cost for the dependents is the full difference between not having the dependent on the plan and having the dependent on the plan. So to the employer the person who just had a kid does not now cost more to insure, but to the employee, there is an increased cost.
                But also if the next year’s plan is evaluated based on how much the pool of employees cost the insurer this year, then one person having a kid may make the pool’s cost more because the insurance company decided this pool of people is going to use more services the next go round. So the premiums go up for everyone because the rate for whatever plans the company has now cost more a year later…although they’d almost certainly cost more a year later anyway, but by how much? Potentially varies on if everyone were well the previous year vs multiple people having major hospital stays etc.

              4. doreen*

                I’ve never encountered one where the cost to cover an employee was the same as the cost to cover the employee + dependents – but for every plan I’ve had , the only choices were “individual” or “family”. Since I always had my husband on my plan, my premiums did not go up when my kids were born and did not go down when they got their own coverage. I’ve heard of plans that have a “single +1 ” rate ( where the +1 is either a spouse or one kid) but even those don’t have different rates for “single +2 ” vs “single + 3”

                1. A*

                  It happens, although I *hope* it’s somewhat rare. I literally left a job largely because of this. I can barely keep a roof over my head/food on the table, no way in heck I’m supplementing my coworkers choice to have children. Especially when it limits MY choice to do the same because of financial strain.

                2. Risha*

                  They’re relatively rare, but I’ve seen companies with Single+2, and Single+3 options, though they’ll pretty much all have a final +Family option for the people with a lot of kids.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I can see that 1+1 should cost more than 1+0, but would it also be more expensive for a “just me” policy? So if for example in a 2+1 family you decided that the other parent would add the baby to their insurance, and the postpartum parent would not change hers…?

            1. Jen2*

              Nope, if the woman doesn’t add the child to her insurance, her premiums would stay the same as they were previously.

        1. Stitch*

          I was more commenting on the fact that having a baby cost my insurance a lot. I had been someone who only saw doctors for checkups before.

      2. a commenter here*

        which is part of why I’m against it. There is no reason to single out smoking as a risk factor, and paying more for health insurance will not cause anyone with a serious nicotine dependancy to quit.

        I dislike working out, that’s a risk factor. Should I be penalized for that? Nah

        1. MommyMD*

          It’s really not to get anyone to quit though that would be a great outcome. It is for subsidizing the enormous cost of providing health care to chronic smokers. It affects every system in the body.

          1. EPLawyer*

            It’s either charge the smokers more, or spread the cost over all the workers so everyone’s health insurance goes up. Yes smoking is on your time. But if you want company insurance, they get to decide how to allocate the costs.

            What bothered me is the blood test. How accurate are those things? What can cause a false positive. I give enough to the job, they don’t need my blood too.

          2. Christmas Carol*

            I remember seeing an analysis once (don’t remember where or when) that concluded the early deaths from smoking could actually end up being a net savings to the overall health care/retirement systems. I’m not saying I agree, but the argument was that most people use a massive amount of care dollars in their last year or so of life, no matter what age they may die at, but if you die young…………………..

            1. pentamom*

              I’ve always wondered about, that, too. If you die of heart disease in your 60s from smoking, your risk of need for long term Alzheimer’s care is zero.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I smoke and even I will admit that it is a totally avoidable thing that only hurts your health. It’s not like red wine or whatever where someone will come up with a study that says it’s good for you! So I’m sympathetic to the general idea, although I would be PISSED if my job wanted to test my blood or whatever.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Avoidable early on, less so after they get you hooked. I’ve seen people trying to quit- it’s not pretty. Thank god my vice is coffee (and I’m trying to cut back so I feel like a slug right now).

    2. Aaron*

      It’s also used by done people to self medicate for schizophrenia, which opens up a bunch of other issues.

      1. Anon this time*

        And to self-medicate for a whole host of other mental health issues. I’ve been smoking since I was 14 years old, which also happened to be the year my bipolar got really bad and I wasn’t allowed to access mental health care. I’ve been trying to quit ever since but even though I’ve been stable for over 15 years, I still can’t kick it. I feel lots of shame about being a smoker and getting it at work too would suck.

        1. Pommette!*

          Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very typical of today’s smokers.

          Managing bipolar is a big accomplishment. As is quitting smoking: for most people it takes years (or decades!) of effort, and multiple attempts to get there – until one attempt sticks, and all the hard work pays off. Good luck.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And at least sometimes ADHD.
        (You know that weird way that ADHD meds are stimulants for someone who does NOT have ADHD? Grandmothers still spout the old saw about using coffee & cigarettes to calm those symptoms. At least my MIL doesn’t suggest my daughter start smoking, but I’ve had to raise my voice to get her to stop giving the girl caffeinated sodas. I warned her in advance no coffee, and compromised to allow tea.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Plus some of the supplements used to treat certain conditions might show up as false positives on a sloppy test (eg NAD/”nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide” – a niacin variant)

      3. Pommette!*

        That is what bothers me about singling out smoking for insurance premium increases. We know that people with mental illness (including schizophrenia, and a slew of mood disorders) are at much, much higher risk for nicotine addiction, as are people with ADHD. We know that people with˚less education˚and˚lower socio-economic statuses are at higher risk.

        I’d much rather pool the costs of healthcare,(and˚offer˚good˚mental˚health˚and°addiction˚coverage). than try to parcel out whose disease is˚”real” and whose is a “lifestyle˚choice″.

  12. Stitch*

    “[A]n interviewer looked up their house online, concluded they weren’t hurting for money, and tried to lowball them on salary as a result”.

    Ugh, say it again for the folks in the back: a salary is not charity! Employers who treat their employees like they are doing them a favor by paying them are toxic. You are paying for work done and to be competitive. Any employer who acts like this should be avoided like the plague.

    1. Gymmie*

      Also, wouldn’t you need MORE money to keep up with your lavish lifestyle?

      Does that sound ridiculous? Yes. The whole thing is.

      1. Meredith*

        I bet your employer would be offended if you asked for a raise specifically BECAUSE you just bought a more expensive house…

    2. Dagny*

      Just a theory, but the “them” who was lowballed might be a woman, and the hiring manager has the sexist idea that she’s playing at a job while her breadwinner husband brings home the bacon.

  13. Mookie*

    The colleague of LW3 sounds like he thinks he’s an optimizer, but he’s not. Believing or pretending to believe that every innovation, improvement, update, or ground-breaking concept is equally valuable is unrealistic, at best, and often very counterproductive, as we see here. Optimizers know how to prioritize and have the experience and judgment to understand why they should and how doing so leads to better implementation down the road and contributes to the evolution of complicated projects. You build on top of solid foundations, and someone like this employee is not in a position to unilaterally decide when that foundation is executed. That’s a collective judgment. Optimizers can make great team-players because they drive solid incremental change.

    Zombie Unicorn has put forward on elegant solution, so I’ll name another, which is the opposite: encourage him to stop ‘performing’ optimization and risk assessment of his own work. Don’t rely on his judgment of how urgent his ideas are. He’s not good at doing that and is wearing blinders when it comes to assessing the value and feasibility of his big, complex proposals. I don’t know if the LW is in a position to do that, though.

  14. Amy*

    I don’t get the “big house = not hurting for money so I can low-ball.”

    My big house comes with a big monthly mortgage payment. The logic escapes me.

    1. MommyMD*

      Yeah, seems strange. Maybe it’s tied to a kind of background check. I think I would have just politely asked. Even without a street address it’s very easy to find if you know the name and city. I would like to know why Company feels it is necessary.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Making assumptions about people based on the size of their house is so ridiculous, and honestly besides the point. It doesn’t matter if I can afford not to work and just want a job to fill up my time. If I’m doing a job I should be compensated fairly, independent of my personal financial situation.

    3. Phony Genius*

      I’d have assumed the opposite: a not-so-nice house means they’re willing to accept less. Sort of a back door way of finding out somebody’s previous salary if they can no longer ask for it.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It sounds like another way to figure out if you’re coupled and thus 2 income. If it’s the woman looking for work, I imagine it’s another way to pull that nasty “look at that house, your husband must be the breadwinner, you just need pocket money right?”

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        I’d be so mad if someone pulled that stunt on me. I (a wife) am the breadwinner, my husband is a PhD student on an itty bitty scholarship until he graduates. That’s not at all unusual nowadays either. Grrrrrrrr.

  15. Ebony*

    I’m not from the US so not sure how it works but can you get charged more after having a baby? I would also argue that having a child in the US seems like it’s not always a personal choice, with efforts being made to remove any choice.

      1. Reality Check*

        I believe women pay more than men for health insurance from the get-go. But we pay less than men on auto insurance, so there’s that.

        1. Amy*

          In terms of premiums? No, I believe that’s prohibited by the ACA.

          There’s no definitely no difference in male/ female premiums in my large health care plan.

          1. KayEss*

            Even when purchasing individual plans on the government marketplace, my husband and I had almost the exact same premium—the only difference was his was slightly more expensive because he was over 35 and I wasn’t. Age and smoking are the only health factors allowed to affect premiums under the ACA, iirc.

    1. Justme, the OG*

      In my work, there are different tiers of plans: employee, employee plus spouse, employee plus child(ren), employee plus spouse and child(ren). So yes, you pay more for insurance covering a child than not.

      1. Lynca*

        I honestly don’t know any plans where your children are just automagically included. I’ve had one. Had to call IN THE HOSPITAL to get them added on, which is just flat out ridiculous since policy allows for additions after birth/adoption for 90 days. Insurance knew I was pregnant and had done a lot of wellness calls specifically because I was pregnant.

        Insurance then decided because the baby and I had to spend a week in the hospital after giving birth they weren’t going to cover ANY charges until I had the policy updated. Hospital started freaking out wanting some kind of guarantee that the insurance was going to pay. It was not a fun way to spend recovery.

        1. Door Guy*

          When we had our kids (on 2 different insurances) both of them just had a “Major Life Event” form we filled out within X days (and I think it was like 90 days) of it happening to get them under our insurance.

          We did have some issues with insurance and our 2nd child, but that was a clerical error at the hospital and NOT anything like what you describe.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Which is super stupid, given that you’d been going to prenatal appointments. They have that information, they need to use it.

      2. MayLou*

        My understanding of the question was whether you pay more for your own insurance because you had a baby (on the basis perhaps that having had a baby are damaging to your physical health, perhaps? Although I’ve not heard of any statistical data supporting that, other than obviously during pregnancy and giving birth are riskier than not being pregnant/giving birth).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Insurance calculations are hella complicated. Spouse’s insurance premium went DOWN when he was dx with gout, because if you get gout you can’t get MS (I think – something similarly expensive).

    2. Meredith*

      Pregnancy and gender are protected classes, as are race/ethnicity, religion, age, physical disability, and veteran status. Although premiums do change based on age. Auto insurance can change based on any number of things (famously, teenage boys are the most expensive to insure), but auto insurance isn’t an innate right. It’s complicated.

    3. emmelemm*

      Before the ACA (Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare), it was possible (at least for a small organization such as the one I work for) to purchase an insurance plan that specifically EXCLUDED any maternity care (which made it significantly cheaper). Since I was the only woman working at my company and had no plans on having children, we had that policy for a couple of years. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t fly under the ACA though.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It’s not so much that you get charged higher premiums as that pregnancy and childbirth are very, very expensive. A pregnant person has many more appointments with a doctor over the course of nine months than a relatively healthy non-pregnant person does. A patient’s co-pay for a hospital delivery can be well over $1000, and that’s not including the portion of the cost that’s paid by the insurance company. A person who is pregnant and engaging in regular pre-natal and post-natal care is going to cost an insurance company a lot more than a non-pregnant person who only goes to the doctor for an annual physical or to treat mild, short term illness like a sinus infection or a stomach bug.

  16. Ewesername*

    I work for a company in Canada that gives non smokers two extra paid days off a year. Their reasoning? We don’t take smoke breaks!

    1. MK*

      Hmm. I can see that making sense of you have data that smokers produce less because they are taking more breaks (or for service roles where by definition you are working less if you are physically away from your posititon). But I, as someone who gets a lot more done in less time than the average person, would resent it if lower-producing colleagues got extra days off for something that is not affecting my output. Also, not all smokers take breaks; my father used to be a heavy smoker but never smoked at home, so he went from 4p.m. till 6a.m. every day and most weekends without smoking, and I smoke very rarely (about 3-4 packets per year for decades now).

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        We have a pretty good number of techs onsite who smoke. I would say a good 2/3 of them take very frequent, rather lengthy smoke breaks (I can see the smoke shack outside my office window). The rest take no more breaks than any nonsmoker.

        It *is* frustrating when there is something that needs handled very quickly, and the right techs can’t be found because they don’t respond to radio calls at the smoke shack, and they’re taking 3x more breaks than anyone else….but that could also be handled by enforcing break limits & efficiency metrics, rather than giving us nonsmokers an extra couple days off, because there are definitely a good few nonsmokers who just go hide out in random empty rooms to futz around.

        1. MK*

          Sure, frequent smoke breaks can be a disruption, but it would be more reasonable to ban them or, better yet, regulate breaks for everyone; e.g. have a rule that everyone is allowed one 5-minute break every 2-3 hours. Giving extra days off to all non-smokers (some of whom may be taking frequent breaks too, just not use them to smoke) is only rewarding not smoking: it doesn’t address the increase on healthcare costs that come with smoking and it doesn’t dissuade anyone from taking breaks. In fact, I think some people might feel more free to take long smoke breaks, since they become some sort of unofficial time-off.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          At one job we used to call the area where the operations smokers would light up “Conference Room S”. We would literally stand around, smoke and troubleshoot stuff. The stress level was high enough that the standing up from your desk to go smoke was like taking a weight off your shoulders.

    2. LardEater*

      I’m convinced that small breaks improve productivity in most jobs. We should encourage non-smokers to stretch their legs and network with non-smoking breaks

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That’s another slippery slope. If someone is taking frequent smoke breaks and not getting their work done, that’s an issue between employee and manager. Who’s to say the non-smokers aren’t wasting time chatting with their neighbor, or drinking 10 cups of coffee a day (having to frequently go to the kitchen)? It’s not right to single out one habit over another, and provide an extra benefit to those who don’t partake in it.

      1. Door Guy*

        My first job, only smokers got breaks. They could go out any time except the middle of a rush and smoke for a few minutes, but anyone else trying would get yelled at to get back to work.

        One of my fellow non-smoking coworkers and I took a couple novelty smoke bombs out back one night and lit them off and called it our smoke break. (We also had a coworker who started smoking the day he turned 18 just so he could take a break)

        1. Christmas Carol*

          In a similar situation, I became a FineWeatherSmoker. On nice, sunny, not too hot days, I would go hang out outside with the cool kids. They all knew that someone needed to hand me a lit cigarette if the boss walked by to check on us. On cold, rainy, snowy days, I would be TryingToQuit

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          So unless you smoke you’re chained to your desk all day? That wasn’t my point. It may not be an official break, but others are going to stop working throughout the day for various reasons. Someone who doesn’t smoke could be wasting the same amount of time (or even more).

    4. CR*

      I love that. In my youth I worked a retail job where the manager gave all the smokers extra breaks. I was so resentful.

    5. Door Guy*

      The VP I work with leaves early every day because he doesn’t smoke (and he gets there well before anyone else) He claims that by not going out back for 5 minutes several times a day he has worked the same amount as everyone else. (He also is the first one in every morning by at least 30 minutes for other management and 1 hour for non-management, and does stay when he needs to. He just finishes everything on his pile for the day, checks in around the building for anything that needs attention, and then heads out once he’s touched base with everyone and addressed anything they bring up)

      Is it right? I’m not sure but then I don’t smoke but also can’t bring myself to leave early outside of odd one-offs (he’s training me to take over for him when he retires at the end of the year. I’m not getting his VP position but his manager duties at the location as he’s Manager first and VP second)

    6. Pommette!*

      I would find this really obnoxious, paternalistic, and unfair.

      I’ve worked with plenty of non-smoker who took lots of long breaks throughout the day, and with plenty of smokers who didn’t, or who made up for time spent smoking by working through their lunch breaks.

      If an employer wants to discourage long or frequent breaks, then they should do so directly, by monitoring time spent working, instead of using clumsy and inaccurate proxies. Or better yet, they could monitor the thing they actually care about – employee productivity. If they want to discourage smoking, they should pay to give their employees access to smoking cessation support programs and to good mental and substance use disorder healthcare.

      As a non-smoker, my “reward” is that I don’t smoke and am not addicted to nicotine. I’m genuinely grateful. It’s awesome, and it’s enough.

    7. hbc*

      My non-scientific observations have smokers taking a lot more breaks than non-smokers, at all levels and types of jobs. But still, that policy would make me massively uncomfortable.

    8. blink14*

      I love this! I want “fresh air” breaks at the same rate, except hard to get actual fresh air with people puffing away outside of my (non-smoking campus!) building.

  17. NYWeasel*

    OP#3: Oh dear! It sounds an awful lot like you got saddled with Fergus after he left our company. When he started with us he was full of thousands of ideas for “improvements”. Half of them were not going to fix anything, and he never wanted to put any effort into the other half that might pay off. We’d assign him a specific suggestion to focus on, and whenever he started to get excited about a new idea, we’d say “That’s great! How is the Llama Indexing project? Have you made any headway on it yet?”

    We found that this tactic ended up frustrating Fergus because he felt 100% that his ideas were soooooo brilliant, his managers should just allow him to be the idea generator, and that we should be taking everyone else off their work and reassigning them to drive these ideas forward. Fergus then started to become bitter about how no one at the company “had vision”, and he would lash out angrily at others. I was in your exact position—I wasn’t his manager, but I had a front row seat to his behaviors. I ended up speaking with his manager, and sharing both positive and negative feedback as it arose, so she could manage him more effectively.

    His manager was able to have some very blunt discussions with Fergus about what he needed to focus on and how he needed to respond professionally. He realized he was super close to being put on a PIP, so he went off and found a gig working as a consultant. Sorry we weren’t able to make more headway before you ended up with him!

    1. Bree*

      I think the fact that this LW says most of the contractor’s ideas are actually good ones, just not a priority, does make an important difference in how they should handle this, though.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Having good ideas and figuring out how to work them into product development cycles are two different things.
        I’m grouchy about the concept right now because I’m dealing with a poorly implemented ‘lean development cycle’ in another division that makes my division’s work exponentially more complicated.
        (In an imaginary situation where an entire airplane has to be approved as a unit including interiors, that group keeps releasing redesigned seats & taking the old ones off the market. That means we have to re-do our documentation & FAA tests.) (I am not in aerospace.)

        1. Bree*

          For sure – I’m just saying that a team member who has good ideas but doesn’t know how to prioritize them is a very different scenario than a team member who has bad ideas and keeps pushing them.

  18. Kanel*

    #4 Would it be possible to come by for lunch or coffee or so, instead of volunteering? That way you could hang out with these people you like, without any worries.

    1. OP 4*

      I thought about that too, but was afraid that would be even more strange since volunteering would at least give me a “reason” to be there. Maybe after a few months I can test out both and see which feels better!

  19. Bree*

    Just a possible thought on #3 which may or may not fit. How long has the contractor worked with the company, and does it have a history of rejecting new ideas or not innovating? I’ve worked in organizations that were so stuck in their ways it became incredibly frustrating to watch them miss opportunity after opportunity, and I can see how that could make someone push obnoxiously hard for every new idea as a desperate reaction. Of course, the more appropriate response is to cope or find a new job, but people are human.

    But if the LW’s company does an appropriate amount of innovation and improvement, disregard this!

  20. OP1*

    Definitely plan to remove my address moving forward. I guess I technically knew it was possible, but it was too shocked in the moment and I didn’t know how to respond. This was one of many red flags I experienced. I know he was doing research on me before going into meet him as he had my old employer on his screen.

    The salary thing makes sense, it would be a pay bump, but I came in at their upper limit. So I can see them trying to figure out if I’m worth it. Still creepy – beyond creepy.

    Thanks everyone!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      The value of your home should have no relationship at all to whether or not you are worth paying the salary they have already budgeted! (I know Alison said this already.)

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      Ewwwww. No salary can justify that level of creepiness! Run like the wind, OP, and GlassDoor that $#&@!

      1. voyager1*

        No to the Glassdoor part. Contact the HR department and let them know. Putting that on Glassdoor is just going to look weird and frankly bitter. If I read that I would just assume it was an angry rejected candidate.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          How would that look “weird and frankly bitter.”

          “When I arrived to the interview, I observed that there was a printout of the Zillow page for my house on my interviewer’s desk. This creeped me out, and I decided to withdraw from consideration.”

    3. Meredith*

      On the flip side, the value of my house is below what my husband and I could “objectively” afford on our combined salaries (and, in fact, was only based on his salary, as I was a contractor at the time we bought it). So an employer could argue that because my mortgage is obviously not high, they don’t have to pay me as much as someone whose bills are higher. Which is ridiculous, as we’ve discussed in this column – you don’t deserve a raise because you have more/higher bills, and your employer shouldn’t base your worth on that information.

    4. MoopySwarpet*

      Getting a PO Box or a mailbox at a UPS/Mailboxes kind of place could help with the address if you’re finding push back on the address listing.

      We’ve rented mailboxes for years and it’s nice to have packages delivered to a safe location and a recycle bin to toss the junk mail in. Also, depending on where we move to/from, it’s nice to not have to change our address on everything right away. We often pay for a month or so overlap.

      When I’ve looked at applicants’ addresses, it’s to see how long their commute might be. It helps to think about if they might ask for special hours or WFH to avoid traffic and how we feel about it before being put on the spot in an interview or at the offer stage when we’re advertising a 8-5 M-F kind of position. However, city/state accomplishes that just as well.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, run. That would be a huge red flag to me. Worse than printouts of my social media, probably.

  21. MommyMD*

    The ONLY reason that is legitimate for having a picture of your house is if it is currently listed and Company wants to know if you intend to stay local. Maybe they’ve been burned in the past

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Interesting slant. It makes me think of the employers who want to run a credit check…maybe they’re afraid of people who are in foreclosure.

    2. Gymmie*

      But also, you could be moving across town. You could be moving next to the office. It really doesn’t tell you anything except speculation that has nothing to do with the job.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I wouldn’t even say that’s a legitimate reason to have it. Assuming that because my house is for sale, I’m moving far from the job is no different than trying to low ball me because I live in a swanky neighborhood. If the interviewer has concerns about commute that’s fine to ask about, but researching the house and printing a picture is not okay under any circumstances.

  22. MommyMD*

    I’m not understanding the math on the non smoking discount. Coverage is affordable with it but expensive without it? Isn’t it 15 $ a month more for smokers or am I misreading because that’s minimal.

    1. LW1 aka No Mercy Percy*

      The substantial discount is if you test, and meet certain health goals. Not smoking is one of those goals. The $15 per month is if you smoke, on top of the higher premium that doesn’t have the discount.

      So a person can pay the higher premium without the additional $15 if they didn’t test, or tested and failed, but aren’t a smoker.

      I agree $15 extra is minimal. My concerns were a) the principle, and precedent being established and 2) that the $15 is only going up in future years. With the ACA cap of 50% of premium, it has a lot of room to go up.

      1. Kt*

        My insurance is doing a wellness program, so if you do some combination of tobacco free/exercise/flu shot/nutritionist visit/stress reduction blah blah blah you get 400-600 dollars off a year. More or less invasive? They track your gym visits and your weight and blood pressure and number of bike rides (if you choose)… You don’t have to quit smoking but it’s a whole combo of behavioral changes to attest to. Would you prefer that, or not? I’m somewhat undecided myself. It is good that they provide a ton of options, so physical ability etc should not be the deciding factor per se.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My company started doing a wellness program — around the same time they stopped subsidizing the company cafeteria and quality went down so bad that many people won’t go there.
          Ironically the execs upstairs have a small gym with locker room. Those of us downstairs here have two showers per gender for 500 people, and no place to stash clothes while we work out.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          For me it would depend on how specific they get and what they’re checking. Based on charts and BMI I’m considered obese. But I get a physical every year, and my blood pressure and blood work numbers all fall within the normal range. In order to achieve the ideal chart weight, I’d basically have to staple my lips shut. Yes it’s invasive, but if it could save me money I’d probably do it. I pay a lot for health insurance and rarely use it.

        3. Quill*

          I’d be wary of that – a lot of fitness based programs actually do end up dinging people with physical issues. (For example: many things at the gym, such as the treadmill, various weight machines, are not a good idea for me to use, especially without coaching from someone who both knows the machines AND knows anything about physical therapy.) Plus, the potential of disclosing issues to your workplace…

          Tracking gym visits also dings people who do their workouts at home or are trying to maintain work life balance in the form of going on a bike ride with their kids or walking the dog.

        4. Blunt Bunny*

          I think the company can encourage cessation like incentiviting Stoptober (giving up for October) there is also dry January for alcohol. Also maybe offering discounts on things to help you quit eg patches, therapy, hypnotherapy. My company offer discounts for gyms and other related health items and you can get a health assessment free every 2 years.

  23. MommyMD*

    Most work friends are situational. The reality is once you are away from the day to day, these relationships fade. You may find once you are at your job for a few months, the urge to volunteer will lessen. And that even if you do, that the closeness you had with former coworkers will erode being there just once a month. Reassess how you feel after several months at new job. It’s true in most of these situations, you really can’t go home again.

  24. beagle mama*

    My prior employer started off with the discount for not smoking and an additional discount if you took a self reported health care screening (all online). Then it became a discount for biometric screening (weight, blood pressure, glucose level, etc). By the time I left the discount became based on how you fared on the biometric screening based on the prior year if you were in the unhealthy range in any of the categories. (i.e. high blood pressure and glucose in 2018, if you lowered it in 2019, discount went to full $50, if they remained the same, you got half of the discount). Felt intrusive, and given the stress level there, keeping all of those things in check because difficult. My current employer has no such discounts and I pay a reasonable about for insurance with good benefits.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      On the one hand, I’m glad you can get a discount based on the trend, not the absolute value. But on the other, holy Big Brother, Batman!

    2. Crivens!*

      And this is exactly why I don’t like anyone being charged more or less for health insurance based on their habits or health. The more we allow the more insurance companies will try to get away with, and soon it becomes inaccessible to anyone but the people deemed “healthy” by the company’s arbitrary standards. If insurance companies had it their way health insurance would only be for healthy people who don’t use it.

      1. Wired Wolf*

        This is what makes me leery about those genetic/ancestry testing services that give way more data than ancestry. Yes it’s useful to the subject (is your ethnic group predisposed to certain things etc) but who else gets access to that information (is it visible/accessible to insurers and employers)? My state has recently added a provision in their antidiscrimination law that specifically mentions “genetic information”.

      2. emmelemm*

        Yeah, a friend of mine’s mom had cancer (I think ovarian) and her mom tested positive for the BRCA gene. She was then very conflicted about getting test for the gene, not solely because of the “now I know something bad might happen”, but also because “there will be a record of this forever and someday I might not be able to get health insurance.”

    3. Amethystmoon*

      My company does something like that also. We are possibly changing health insurers soon, so I await the verdict on new stuff. You also have to prove you exercise by wearing a step tracker (although that’s not really proof, as there are ways to get around it), and there are options for including sleep and food data. I only have ever given them my step counts since I walk to/from work anyway and it’s pretty easy for me to get the quarterly discounts. I get up to 10,000 or slightly above that on the days I walk.

      1. Quill*

        Sounds like a nightmare, (and a potential disability lawsuit? A girl can dream…) given the number of health conditions that might limit walking.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Well, there are calculators that convert various forms of activity into steps, which you can then plug into your tracker’s app. I know Fitbit allows that. So things like weight lifting, stretching, gardening, swimming, etc. work as well. But yeah, I agree that not everyone can exercise and IMHO it’s silly to tie discounts to that. However, I don’t see health insurance getting any better anytime soon.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, getting snippy just imagining logging this for a week. (Not helped by the fact that I’d love to go for a walk today and not sure it won’t make the pain I am currently in worse.)

            “Let’s see, I have three days this week where I managed a 30 minute walk, one day I managed a 45 minute one, and two days where I was lucky to get the dishes done. Can I log carrying laundry baskets up and down the stairs as weightlifting? What do you mean I haven’t burnt enough calories doing cardio?)

  25. OP3*

    Thank you Alison for a bit of a reality check that my frustration may have been getting the best of me! Zombie Unicorn had some great suggestions, as well as other commenters who’ve made me think I am not doing a good enough job of spelling out the trade-offs. There is definitely room for me to be clearer about “taking X on means A gets pushed back.” We are starting to plan for next quarter, so we have a bit of a fresh start to try some new approaches.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wonder if your Fergus may also go for the idea of grouping changes — ie you’re working on A, B, and F now for testing&release in October, so you will group C, D, E, and G to start after that. (Adding the not-yet-invented H/I/J…)

    2. JCB*

      Might be worth asking him to include time estimates for implementation with each idea. Like, Project A, 3 months with 4 people. Project B, 2 days 1 person, etc. Going through the process of estimating it out himself would probably cement for him that there are only so many hours in a month and there is a real limit as to what can be accomplished.
      And maybe you can have a reframing conversation- tell him to expect going forward that every month you’ll need your team to spend at least 70% (or whatever) of their time on the existing work so he should only expect them to have X amount of hours to implement new stuff. And maybe like “I need you to stop being surprised that the team isn’t getting to everything on your list. It’s not realistic that we could accomplish all this while continuing to do the existing work.”
      I saw someone above sort of say maybe this just isn’t his skillset and assessment/prioritization shouldn’t be part of his job, but I really think that’s a step too far. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but for ideas to be really useful they have to be vetted and prioritized and all the steps that are required to actually implement them. It sounds like this guy doesn’t personally have to implement so he should at a minimum be able to spell out exactly what each idea would require, assess its value, and prioritize it. I would push back with things like “we can’t use your idea unless we know how long it’s going to take or what goes into it. can you get back to me with the time estimate?” or “we can only take on one project this month- you can pick which one you think is the most urgent or else I will just have to guess which one we should start with”.

  26. Nicole*

    Considering how much money companies lose on smokers who take repeated smoke breaks throughout the day, I’m totally okay with this.

    1. Goose Lavel*

      At my last company, you could only smoke during breaks and lunch; didn’t cost the company any lost time.

    2. LardEater*

      Studies have shown that small breaks improve productivity . For fairness non-smokers should be allowes to have a wander outside a couple of times a day.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      How is that any different than a non-smoker chatting with co-workers throughout the day? If someone is taking too many breaks, that needs to be addressed with their manager regardless of the reason for the breaks.

  27. Madame X*

    I don’t have a problem with an insurance company slightly of charging for smoking. Smoking is completely avoidable. If the insurance company is going to go this route, then I also think they should offer incentives and ways to help people quit and hopefully avoid the charge. it’s a good way to encourage people to adopt healthier habits.

    However, I am side-eyeing how the insurance company chose to tell people what the testing was for, after they got people to opt-in to the testing. Anytime a health provider offers testing, there should be transparency for what that testing is for. People have a right to know exactly what they’re signing up for when they choose to submit themselves to testing.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yup. That’s an ethical breach. Unless the employees had to sign something that said something like “these samples could be used for additional health testing “

  28. PhyllisB*

    A big amen to that, fizzywhizkid!! I had to have a section of my lung removed at age 34 because of a cancerous growth and I never smoked a day in my life. However, everyone in my family did. The good thing about this is that this caused them all to quit smoking.

  29. Cat Fan*

    It makes sense not to put your full address on your resume, but don’t you have to enter your address into most application systems anyway? Can we really avoid sharing our full address in most cases?

    1. Summertime*

      I think what everyone above was mentioning about not putting the address on the resume is that it requires someone to go through one extra step to access your address. If it’s on the resume, it’s immediately accessible. If it’s on an online database, it’s less likely to be one of the first things a hiring manager sees because they will probably go to the resume attached to the online application. I don’t think you can avoid it all the time, but it does bar a bit of nosiness if the nosy person needs to look for the address in a system to find it.

      In this case though, this manager probably would have tried to find out OP1’s address whether it was provided or not.

  30. Jam Today*

    Team member who won’t prioritizing — does he know how? Does he know the measures you use to calculate priority, i.e. value of potential new clients/market, opportunity cost of lost revenue/clients if something isn’t done, severity/impact anlaysis, etc.? If you can break it down to relative dollar value of improvements, that might help things along.

  31. Samwise*

    OP 2 and AAM: It’s a thing because smokers have higher medical costs. Any one smoker may not, but in general, there is good data showing that smokers are subject to a number of health conditions that are expensive to treat.

    Similarly, if you want more than a fairly basic life insurance policy, you’re going to have to have an EKG and to supply other medical info. The results can determine how much you will pay or whether you will even get that top-notch policy. Comparable situations with auto insurance as well.

    If you’re riskier, you’re going to pay more.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Well, that’s some nice condescension there. But an EKG for an employer-provided health plan? That’s how you lose every employee worth their salt.

    2. Andie Elizabeth*

      Women also have higher medical costs and are subject to a number of health conditions that are expensive to treat, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that it’s appropriate to make them pay more for heath insurance. I know that disentangling health care from monetary concerns is outside the scope of this question/comment section but as Alison mentions concerns about slippery slopes and appropriateness, “it’s riskier so it costs more” can’t be the end of the discussion.

      1. Meredith*

        Gender is a protected class, and “smoker” is not.

        (I am still not in favor of this, but as Alison mentioned, it seems the only way around it is decoupling health insurance from employment here in the US.)

        1. Andie Elizabeth*

          Sure, but I do think the slippery slope is a real and present danger at the current moment. There are lawmakers that have been trying to repeal the ACA since it was passed (before which it *was* legal to charge women more for health insurance) and the current administration is trying to revoke protections for transgender Americans right now. If we can charge smokers more, how about trans folks? There’s any number of “lifestyle” conditions that this could be applied to. Drinking? Skiing? Living in an area prone to a particular natural disaster? It’s easy to argue that “smoker” ought not be protected because we’ve spent forty years demonizing it (rightly, in my opinion) but it gets pretty messy pretty fast beyond that.

  32. Jennifer*

    Re: Address

    Obviously what this interviewer did is creepy and am not defending that at all. Repeating for emphasis. Obviously what this interviewer did is creepy and am not defending that at all.

    In the city I live where the metro area is huge and people are spread out all over the place, providing your address can be an advantage. Employers get tired of people always being late or not showing up at all because of bad traffic, car trouble, etc. Some end up quitting because of a brutal commute. So if they look at your resume and see you live kind of close you are already have a step above other people. My friend had her resume posted on one of the big job sites and had an employer contact her when she hadn’t even applied. Her qualifications matched the role, but her living 15 minutes away from the job site gave her an advantage. Just something to think about before removing your address from your resume.

    1. Door Guy*

      My current job they were worried about my commute. It’s about 65 miles round trip for me. It took more than a few reassurances that I wasn’t going to quit because of the drive when I first got hired. I told them that 1) I knew about the drive when I applied 2) I’ve grew up in the area I live in currently and have lived in my current home for over 7 years, I’ve been going on this drive most of my life and it doesn’t bother me, in fact I even have to drive 35 miles 1 way to go to the grocery store unless I want to pay outrageous prices for a small selection at my local IGA 3) It’s almost entirely highway driving except for the last 2 miles where I leave the highway to get to the office. 4) I drove A LOT for my last job, like 300+ miles a day at times, and the driving was NOT why I was leaving and finally 5) I LIKE to drive

      Honestly, the worst part of my commute is when I get to the city I work in and have to deal with all the crazy drivers.

      1. Door Guy*

        To add – I get a company vehicle, so it’s not a hardship for me for fuel and maintenance costs. They were worried about me burning out from driving so much.

        They did have to amend my company vehicle contract though, which didn’t bother me. Everyone else with a company vehicle is permitted to use theirs for personal use off the clock as long as they track the mileage; I am not allowed to do personal use with mine. I am just fine with that. (Helped that my 2 previous jobs also had company vehicles I wasn’t allowed to use off the clock but still took home)

      2. Filosofickle*

        Right. On the flip side, when I moved during a job my employer at the time was VERY concerned about my commute doubling + adding a notorious bridge. I reassured them a bunch of times it wasn’t going to be a problem. It WAS a problem and I knew full well it would be (tho it was even worse than I expected), but that was where I could afford to buy and I didn’t have a choice but to keep that job while I looked for a new one. They really never know whether they’re getting you or me.

        1. Jennifer*

          Exactly. If you really need the job, what else are you going to say? “No, this commute will be brutal and probably lead to my arriving at work late and in a foul mood multiple times per week.” That’s why a lot of employers seem to prioritize applicants who live closer.

          I noticed I got a lot more responses to my resume when I moved and updated my address.

  33. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    #2 – We have smoker vs nonsmoker rates and wellness vs non-wellness rates. So, four rate types depending on what combination of those you are. The cheapest being non-smoker and wellness. The most expensive being smoker and non-wellness. It’s a $40/month difference for the cheapest to the most expensive. Wellness is defined as participating in the wellness program. It’s points based. You get points for getting a yearly checkup, tracking your daily activity (30 minutes a day), taking a lunch-time class on a health related topic, and a few other things. I’m not a fan of it and don’t think it really makes a big difference, but I could be wrong. I know they also allow people to complete a smoking cessation program and switch to the non-smoking rate and get refunded the difference they already paid that year for the smoking rate.

  34. Exhausted Trope*

    Letter 1 has given me pause and much eeriness. In applying for jobs, the online application often asks for a home address. I wonder who’s using this information?

  35. Amethystmoon*

    #2 Be very wary if your company is like mine, where they assume you smoke and you have to sign multiple (sometimes hidden) forms in different places on their web site and your health insurance web site if you don’t smoke. Otherwise, you automatically get charged the extra fee. I’m allergic to cigarette smoke and have never/would never touch them. But this making people jump through extra hoops just to be charged what they should be charged in the first place is ridiculous. I had to go to HR to just not be charged the extra monthly fee. And I wasn’t allowed to get a refund.

    1. sea*

      This is how my company is too. The default is that everyone is a smoker and you have to make sure you go through all the hoops to make sure everything’s been changed to show that you’re not a smoker. And if you miss one of the forms, oops no refund for you.

      1. Cheesy*

        My last company had it, BUT it was only a check box in 1 spot, and it had it’s own subsection that wouldn’t let you finalize without confirming.

        The only way to get hit was to not go in and confirm your selections every year as it defaulted to “smoker” regardless of what you selected previous years. Didn’t mean that guys wouldn’t just say “I’m not changing anything” and just let it go through without looking at it and then get hit come first of the year when it went into effect.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      That approach is horrible IMHO. My company charges higher premiums to smokers, but they’re straightforward about it. The first year they did a test of saliva to check for nicotine. Since then we certify every year we’re still smoke-free. The certification is easy to find and they have always sent reminders to sign it.
      There was a merger and now there are new benefit plans – I’ll watch to make sure this didn’t fall through the cracks.
      Amethystmoon and sea, do you live in areas that are pro-smoking, such as the southeast? Maybe that accounts for them defaulting to everyone’s a smoker?

  36. sea*

    #2, it’s never occurred to me that some companies don’t charge extra for smoking! My job charges $75/month for smokers and it’s going up to over $100 next year.

  37. Summertime*

    OP1, were you in contact with an HR rep before interviewing with the hiring manager? You’re definitely not obligated to report it, but if you feel you have a rapport with the HR rep, you could mention that the hiring manager had a printout of your house through an email or phone call.

    If you’re going in for a second interview and other interviewers besides the hiring manager are there, I would be a fan of a suggestion above to point out the printout of your house if you see it. Hopefully, the other interviewers will also think “What the hecking heck is wrong with this manager?” and are more poised to be in a position to address the behavior.

    But again, I emphasize that we don’t always need to speak up. We often feel obligated to address bad behavior, but above all, we should be protecting ourselves. Being able to speak up and be heard is often a privilege of being in a safe situation (which really shouldn’t be a privilege because safety should be granted to everyone) and we aren’t always in one.

    1. thatoneoverthere*

      I agree with this. Even if you don’t have a rapport with HR, if you have their contact info I would say something. Personally I would not go back to an interview that had a print out of my house.

  38. Peaches*

    #2 – Just wanted to say my company does this (I work in a small office, but am part of a large company). It’s also a $15/month additional charge for smokers. I believe this is fairly common. My office only had one smoker when this policy came into play a few years ago, but he actually stopped smoking because he didn’t want to pay extra.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      My current job has this policy and my previous two did is well. So pretty much every office job I’ve had included this policy. Our discount can get ‘docked’ for other health concerns to if you don’t demonstrate a willingness to address them. I personally like the set up, but also am a non-smoker who enjoys working out. I could definitely eat better (as I eat a chocolate muffin while typing…), but I like having a push to do that.

      With ours, a smoker can literally take the “quite smoking” course every year, which shows they are trying, and continue to get the discount even if they continue to smoke. An unhealthy BMI gives you the option to join a healthy eating program, an exercise program (both last like 2-3 months?), or meet with our onsite dietitian or personal trainer privately X times. You can do that annually even if you didn’t lose a single pound the year before (or if you gained weight) and keep your discount.

      I personally am usually low on Vitamin D, so I agreed to take supplements. I even admitted the first year when it didn’t improve much that I forgot to take them half the time… Doctor just let me know I can take more than one at a time if I forget, I said I’d do that, and I got marked as ‘still trying to improve’ and my discount stayed where it was.

      1. Bree*

        This discussion is fascinating, because what some people think is reasonable seems totally bananas to me. But then, I’m Canadian so my employer-provided health benefits are supplementary to the automatic provincial coverage. Perhaps this is why insurers/employers are a lot less aggressive in my experience.

        My workplace does offer wellness perks – gym discounts, fruit basket every week, EAP, stress reduction programming like mindfulness and once-a-month group singing. But these are framed much more as work-life balance items offered by HR to improve employee performance/retention, not tied to insurance costs.

        1. pamela voorhees*

          Sorry, back up, I have to know everything about group singing. Is there a choir director? Do you just put lyrics up on a screen karaoke-style? Do you get songs to take home and practice? I’m diving into Google but I’d love to know more from a first hand perspective.

  39. t*

    #2 Not only does my company charge smokers more for health insurance, they now won’t hire smokers at all! (except in states where being a smoker is a protected class). We had a contractor we wanted to bring on as an employee, and he failed the nicotine blood test. HR made us wait 6 months to try again and he enrolled in a cessation program to quit. He’s a great employee and I would have hated to lose him over this!

    1. Quill*

      That’s an issue. What if someone lives in the same house as a smoker? That could easily lead to failing the nicotine test…

    2. Michaela Westen*

      Yay, the disincentive worked! This is also why they put heavy taxes on buying cigarettes.
      Smoking costs billions in public health costs. The health care of smokers costs much more. To me it makes sense to give a discount to non-smokers.

    3. Cheesy*

      I worked in a toxic job that didn’t allow anyone to leave the building once they had clocked in without manager permission (the only exception was taking out the trash, and even then you needed to get the door unlocked by someone of at least supervisor level)

      This wasn’t an office building or anything, but a restaurant.

  40. Spreadsheets and Books*

    At least it’s just insurance… my husband is a resident and when he was on the interview trail, he ran into numerous hospitals that flat out don’t hire smokers. One even nicotine tested. Some of the others that would hire smokers had super high insurance premiums, and a few included BMI in that. My husband actually was a smoker before we started dating (I didn’t want to date a smoker) and before he started med school, so at least that wasn’t a hindrance to him.

      1. willow*

        My office is near a large medical campus. There is apparently only one spot on the whole campus that all the staff can smoke. It is packed with Dr’s and nurses all day. I know a very well regarded cardiologist that is at least 200 lbs overweight.

        “Do as I say, not as a do”

  41. Aquawoman*

    I have a different perspective on #3. The LW says they’re the team lead and it’s their job to balance the work. It sounds to me like the guy who can’t prioritize (Fergus) comes up with a lot of ideas and the LW prioritizes them and that sounds like a completely reasonable division of labor to me. It seems to me like LW #3 is trying to get Fergus to do the LW’s job or that the LW is looking for buy-in from Fergus that they don’t need. I think LW3 should change things a little to ask different questions–instead of pushing the whole “priorities” question onto Fergus, LW should identify categories of priorities (is it unsafe without this improvement; will it stop functioning without this improvement; etc) and ask Fergus to provide info about those categories. Part of the reason we have teams is to balance out those kinds of traits. Not everyone is good at everything.

    1. Sharikacat*

      It also sounds like LW3 is relying a lot on Fergus’ expertise, which is already implied in that he is a contractor, to determine prioritization. You pay extra for the specialization because you don’t have it in-house. While I agree that identifying some categories of priorities may help, if the team only has the time/resources to implement ten projects/upgrades while Fergus insists on 25 (and then only compromising by pushing for 20), I’d be sure that Fergus could find ways to “justify” all of his ideas in most of the categories.

      From how productive Fergus is in generating ideas, I doubt the LW wants to loose him, but since he’s a contractor and not an employee, the LW might not be able to show him some of the behind-the-scenes numbers and ongoings that is restricting the team from doing more of Fergus’ great ideas.

  42. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – Unfortunately, if you own your home, there is really nothing stopping a company from “finding” your address. It’s incredibly creepy that they would do it, but it’s public information. Personally if I saw the printout, I’d be hightailing it out of the interview because who knows what other creep-tastic stuff is going on in that office.

    #2 – I don’t think our insurance charges extra for smokers…yet. But the way things have been trending with our policy, I would not be surprised if it’s not too far down the road. As it stands we do a “voluntary” bio-metric screening once a year (voluntary because if you don’t, your premium goes up 10+%). This bio-metric screening involves a few physical “tests” as well as an invasive questionnaire that has to be completed as well.

    I know my brother’s company charges more if you don’t meet certain physical standards (not sure what those standards all are or how they get away with avoiding discrimination). I think the only redeeming thing for him is that it’s variable based on your last screening, so even if you get a bad score at one point, you’re not stuck with that higher premium for the rest of your employment.

  43. Jilly*

    At my old job, they didn’t try to force people to quit smoking, but they did offer 3 sessions of hypnosis for quitting to anyone who wanted it. One colleague hasn’t had a cigarette in the 10 years since and I think he only did 2 sessions. Another managed to go for about a year before picking it up again.

  44. ashie*

    #4 I agree with Allison about waiting a while before volunteering, but also make sure you clear it with your (old) boss before coming back. The politics may have changed since your departure, particularly if there are very involved and/or invested volunteers.

  45. EddieSherbert*

    Okay, so maybe I’m just clueless… I have never put my address or city or state on my resume, and I did not realize that’s something people commonly do. How on earth is that a common practice and I had no idea? just… Mind blown.

    I mean, I’ve filled out an online application where you enter all your personal information, but in sending in a resume/cover letter, I have never included that. And I don’t think anyone has ever told me to…

    (for context: I’m mid-thirties, marketing/comm field, have had several jobs, been at this specific job for 5ish years, been reading AAM longer than that!)

    1. Meredith*

      I’ve lived in 3 states and currently have relevant work history in 2. I’ve had confused recruiters contact me and say, “So… are you still in California? This job is in the bay area.” “No, I moved across the country from Los Angeles 5 years ago… Never lived in the bay area, and have no desire to pay $5k/month in rent. ;)”

      I’ve ALWAYS had my current address at the top!

  46. De Minimis*

    I’m Native American, and in most cases we eventually get diabetes, regardless of lifestyle. If someone is unhealthy, they start having problems with it sooner, but I think we all have at least one family member who does everything right and ends up developing it in middle age.

  47. FD*

    #2- For those defending the employer’s position, let me ask a thought experiment.

    What would you say if an employer charged extra premium for anyone who drives to work instead of taking public transport?

    Driving a car is objectively more dangerous than taking public transport–by a massive margin, so it does objectively increase the risk that the insurer is taking on, and therefore in a purely rational, ‘only based on the facts’ basis, drivers should be charged more than non-drivers. After all, driving is a choice!

    But it’s difficult to imagine an employer doing it without losing their employees, and/or causing a serious uproar.

    I would like to suggest, therefore, that what people are willing to see people pay more for has much more to do with how we perceive certain activities than it does pure objective fact.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      At my company, we do get credit (for our cafe or for our products) if we carpool, bike, or take public transportation. I guess I personally see it the same way for our health insurance setup; we get a discount (“credit”) towards insurance.

      But ours also includes the option of taking a course (that runs during normal work hours) to show you’re working towards quitting smoking and then they can keep the discount (same for other health concerns well – we have an onsite health clinic, dietitian and personal trainer, etc).

      1. FD*

        I don’t think that is the same, really. Most people have to get health insurance because the cost of medical care is so high that you need the protection. (Some people can’t afford it, but that’s a moot point right now.)

        If the employer was offering, separately from the health insurance premiums to subsidize the cost of smoking cessation products, that would be okay. But what they’re doing is increasing the cost of a service that people nearly have to get.

    2. willow*

      This isn’t a case of an employer charging people for fun or for the good of the employee. This is a case of allocating additional costs incurred to the employees responsible. And knowing that if any of these smokers decide to quit, the costs may fall.
      Smokers increase the costs of group insurance. They should pay for it (in my opinion).

      Driving a car vs riding a bus does not at all influence your health insurance rates.

      1. FD*

        Insurance is meant to run on the principle of higher risk activities = higher premium, right? If you drive to work, you are at higher risk of getting into a car accident with injuries by a significant margin over your peers who take public transit.

        It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get in an accident–but it’s also not guaranteed that you’ll get lung cancer if you smoke.

        My point is not that health insurance DOES influence your health insurance rates. My point is that we have accepted, as a society, that some activities that involve significant risk should influence health insurance rates and some should not and I think we should consider why we may have decided that.

        1. Not Me*

          If you drive to work you have auto insurance (a legal requirement in most states) and that would pay for your injuries in the event of an accident. So driving to work would not increase the risk of your health insurance having to pay for your care. Actually, in your example, the walking to work or public transport would up your chance of making a claim on your health insurance.

        2. willow*

          We enforce that anyone that drives on company time keeps their up to date auto insurance on file with us. That is how we do what you are suggesting. I think..

          But back to your point yes there are MILLIONS of factors that go into ones potential risk exposure. The govt decided on this one as being severe enough (surely there were lobbyists for this?) to be acceptable. And I think for most people it makes some sense (vs their method of commute, or any number of other examples).

    3. Not Me*

      That isn’t a good comparison unless your employer is paying part of your auto insurance premiums. The key with employers implementing a discount for a healthier choice is that they are paying for part of the cost.

      If you want to use your comparison though, I think plenty of people who are agreeing with the employer’s decision would also agree in your example if the employer is subsidizing the auto insurance.

    4. Nacho*

      Smoking isn’t just statistically or indirectly dangerous, it directly increases your medical bills, and I shouldn’t have to subsidize your bad habits.

  48. Meredith*

    I had a CEO bring up the google street view of my house when I was interviewing with him. What was embarrassing was that the google street view photo at that time had been taken right after we had a house fire, so my house wasn’t, uh, looking it’s best. (Everything was rectified fire-wise by that time, and I’m now quite happy with what the Google car has captured!)

    He wanted to map my house to the office because they had a policy where you needed to live within 45 minutes. The best-case scenario for me was 52, though it always took me about an hour.

  49. Michaela Westen*

    #2, smoking is a huge public health expense. Health care for smokers costs much more than for non-smokers. It makes sense for smokers to pay more for health insurance.
    Also this is incentive for them to quit, which makes everyone healthier. There’s a post above about an employee who quit so he wouldn’t have to pay extra.
    My company began doing this around 4-5 years ago. We did a saliva test and last I checked the charge was $30 higher per paycheck for smokers. We get paid every two weeks.
    I’m very biased because I’m allergic to tobacco smoke and wish everyone would quit, so I think anything that encourages smokers to quit is a good thing. :)
    Even if one day we have single-payer health care that’s not tied to employment, the care for smokers will still cost more, and they should still be incentivized to quit. The more who quit, the better off we all are.

    1. Meredith*

      Obesity, diabetes, cancer (which people with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are extremely likely to develop) all cost more. Many things that cost more are not individual choices, no matter how much society wants to blame all fat people for their own fatness. Carcinogen exposure, obesity, and yes, even tobacco use, are highly influenced by environment and government policies (or lack thereof).

      1. willow*

        Yep. And smokers directly increase the premiums of their coworkers. People lose weight, people stop smoking, and people control their diabetes and require minimal additional healthcare costs. These are all good things and should be encouraged, rather than ignoring the fact that what we are paying for is the health expenses of all of these people and the lower they are the better.

        Some start smoking more, some gain more weight, some let their diabetes get out of control and lose their feet or legs. These things should be avoided at all costs, even if “blame” occurs. Because the bottom line is medical expenses will be paid for, somehow. Whether through employers, employee premiums, or the govt/taxes.

        Wanting healthcare expenses in the US to improve requires the health of Americans to improve.

        1. Quill*

          The only way the health of americans, overall, is going to improve is removing barriers to access, like no longer linking insurance to employment, and, overall, stop allowing the industry to use any risk analysis that isn’t thoroughly and historically supported by current medical science, such as BMI.

          1. willow*

            Step 1: Separate health insurance and employers
            Step 2: Celebrate
            Step 3: Y’all figure it out while I keep celebrating!

      2. voyager1*

        Umm…No. Nobody forced you to smoke. If you lived in the industrialized 1st world, you probably have been exposed to the idea that smoking is bad for you.

        Not sure what cancer, genetics and all the rest of that has to do with anything. Michaela was pretty clear she was speaking of smoking.

        1. Meredith*

          Except tobacco companies specifically target certain populations – poor neighborhoods (where you’re more likely to be more easily able to buy tobacco) and LGBTQ people specifically. If advertising didn’t work, no one would do it. Native Americans use tobacco and related substances for religious purposes, but that also translates to a higher-than-average population who smoke cigarettes. People with high stress factors – money, discrimination, family estrangement, mental health issues – also tend to more easily become addicted to tobacco.

      3. Anonymouse*

        But smoking is one of the very few things that there is absolutely no NEED for in any amount that carries a vast amount of risk.
        Many people who have opioid addiction start out with a prescription which is needed. Food is necessary for life. But the same is not true for smoking.

        1. Delphine*

          What about people who started smoking due to anxiety or other mental health problems? What about people addicted to opioids who didn’t become addicted through sympathetic means (prescriptions)? We should not be punishing people for their health problems.

          1. willow*

            “Punishing people for their health problems”
            or said a different way
            “asking people to pay for the consequences of their decisions”

            I get that someone addicted to smoking is in a bad spot. But I have also seen the vast majority of smokers around my office stop smoking within the last decade. We went from around a dozen and are down to 1! I don’t think you making excuses for people helps anything at all. Mental illness is not an excuse to smoke, it is an additional reason to stop smoking. poverty is not an excuse for smoking. It is an additional reason to stop smoking. Smoking is going to have more negative effects on the poor than the rich. More incentive to stop.

            Bottom line, people need to take responsibility for their actions. And smoking is different because no one was born a smoker and no one woke up one morning addicted to it. Blame it on marketing, family situation, peer pressure… doesn’t matter really. Personal responsibility should not be overlooked.

            1. pamela voorhees*

              But some people are genetically predisposed to addiction. And “family situation” and “peer pressure” are incredibly powerful — I knew a kid who for his thirteenth birthday, was given a cigarette by his grandfather as a rite of passage to adulthood. Every person over thirteen in the family smoked. Refusing it was NOT an option. I’m guessing that the majority of smokers around you who quit were dealing all day with non-smokers. What if that’s not the case? What if every day, you just see people smoking, and there’s absolutely zero peer pressure to stop? That’s still the case in a lot of rural areas.

              I’m not saying that there’s no element of personal choices, but it’s also not as simple as saying they just need to stop. If “take personal responsibility and just stop” was the solution, we wouldn’t have any alcohol related deaths or an opioid crisis in the United States (and I believe other countries? Although I can’t speak for those). Nobody *wants* to be addicted. And for a lot of people, having to pay an additional premium to access health insurance isn’t going to be the thing that kicks them to quit — if it was, they’d already have quit buying cigarette because they cost extra money.

      4. Observer*

        Smoking is totally a choice AND it’s one of the few things where we have a pretty bright straight line between BEHAVIOR —–> PROBLEMS.

        It’s the same reason why life and disability insurance goes up if you engage in activities like Bungee Jumping.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Also this is incentive for them to quit, which makes everyone healthier.

      I’m a non-smoker as well, but charging smokers more doesn’t make them quit. Every smoker I know who’s over the age of 30 wants to quit and has tried multiple times to quit. It’s chemically addictive. They aren’t lacking for incentives to quit. Quitting is just extremely difficult.

      1. Pommette!*

        Exactly. If sufficient incentive was all it took for people to quit cigarettes, no one would smoke (except maybe a few rebels between the ages of 15 and 25). Financial disincentives don’t work: smoking is already super expensive. Plus, really, what incentive could be more powerful than knowing that smokers face terrible rates of morbidity and mortality, and that second-hand smoke can harm others?

        The problem is that smoking is addictive, and that quitting is, for most people, a long and arduous process. We don’t need to penalize smokers. We need to give them access to the programs and supports that will help them quit. I don’t think that people who have what is essentially a (serious! life threatening! hard to beat!) health problem should be made to pay more for health insurance.

  50. Anonymous Educator*

    At least one commenter here has mentioned in the past that an interviewer looked up their house online, concluded they weren’t hurting for money, and tried to lowball them on salary as a result.

    This is a completely messed up way of thinking about things, but it’s also completely illogical. Unless you’ve somehow determined the person is independently wealthy, I would think a nice house would mean they need more money so they can actually make the mortgage payments. Again, messed up—someone’s house is none of the employer’s business—but if you’re going to use perverse logic, at least use it correctly.

  51. Anonymous Educator*

    I used to work at a company that made a straight-up rule that you weren’t allowed to smoke, and the company would not hire anyone who smokes. They didn’t say they were going to charge a premium. They said they wouldn’t employ someone who smokes. Of course, that didn’t really play out in real life, because the next person they hired was the best candidate for the job… and also happened to be a smoker.

    1. willow*

      One of the motivations for this can be having employees leave for opportunities with better insurance.
      Any if you have a pool of smokers or otherwise expensive to ensure employees, you are SOL.

  52. boop the first*

    1. re: house vs salary
    That’s a terrible idea, heh. I would think if someone has a nicer house, they need a HIGHER income! At least in my city, housing is the largest monthly expense. You can’t rent a detached house for less than $3000/month anymore. Single bedroom apartments are well over $750/month now.

    2. The only thing about this response is that smoking isn’t really an “outside work” habit. It requires constant stops, so your coworkers are repeatedly MIA all day long. And if the boss is also smoking, everyone is just gone all at the same time, repeatedly throughout the day. So while you’re behind, covering all of these spontaneous absences, the smoker’s club is getting chummy with the boss.
    And if the staff naturally runs “young”, every new young hire sees the social value of smoking and takes it up, seemingly unconcerned about the probable regret they’ll have later. Even I found it difficult to avoid, and I’d already made my mind up against ever smoking when I was younger. But I did narrowly avoid it, and what I got out of it was an empty restaurant kitchen where every single job suddenly and repeatedly became my problem at least a dozen times a day, while my coworkers got paid $2/hour more to stand outside all shift.

  53. TootsNYC*

    concluded they weren’t hurting for money, and tried to lowball them on salary

    LOL! If you have a fancy house, you might NEED a higher salary!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I know. This makes no sense. It’s like they just decided the employee needed a lower salary, and then just started making up reasons after the fact to justify it, so the made-up reasons don’t even work.

  54. Washed Out Data Analyst*

    THANK YOU. Employers should NOT be providing healthcare. The fact that companies have this much power over our livelihood is what gives the a lot of leverage to abuse workers.

    1. willow*

      If it makes you feel any better I am not aware of any employers (small employers anyway) that want to have anything to do with their employees health insurance. But it is definitely ripe for abuse.

  55. Steggy Saurus*

    LW2, as others have said, it’s apparently a “thing” and yes, especially the blood test requirement. I work in higher ed, and haven’t seen it yet, but so many others have. I am not a smoker, and never have been (or ever will be), and I find the habit repulsive. That said, if my employer were to institute a policy of either taking a blood test (or a stupid class) to prove you’re not a smoker or pay higher insurance rates, I’d pay higher insurance rates. My employer has no business asking me about my personal habits if they don’t interfere with my job performance. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can afford to take that stand.

  56. CMart*

    Curious to see where all the pro-internet searching “it’s public information/you put it out there for people to see what did you expect” folk from the snooping post the other day are at re: LW#1. Seemed to be a lot of people defending creepy behavior just like this in that comment section but I’m not seeing anyone finding this to be reasonable today.

    1. Grapey*

      I wasn’t on that post, but social media is something one actively chooses to put online. Living in a house on a public street, not so much.

  57. Granny K*

    I used to include my full address on my resume. This became problematic as a) I moved a lot and b) I then had to shred the old resume’s so someone wouldn’t steal my identity. Now I just include my cell phone, city, state and zip code so they can get an idea of where I live. Although I still get calls from recruiters for jobs that are in a different state. (:-\ )

    1. Quill*

      Honestly my huge problem is with recruiters having my cell phone & getting flooded with spammy calls. (No, an electrical engineer is not a thing I have a degree in…) so I took my phone number off my resume too.

      If you don’t want to email me, you either want me to respond right away, which is pretty much never needed in a hiring situation, or you don’t want me to have a written record, and neither of them makes me want to work with you.

  58. LGC*

    So…I scrolled some of the answers, but I have quite a few feelings about letter 2. Basically, while I agree that we should split healthcare coverage from employment, I almost feel like it’s the insurance company that’s imposing the surcharge – not LW2’s employer. (As I understand it, don’t a lot of places just get a broker that offers them different insurance plans to choose from?)

    But, on the other hand, the employer is choosing the plan that discriminates based on behavior. They’re also, quite obviously, the face of insurance a lot of the time – especially during open enrollment. So…I guess if this makes sense, I feel like the real issue is that Insurance Corp is asking fairly invasive questions through LW2’s employer. And I’m a bit split because while I think it’s not the worst thing for insurance companies to charge smokers more, I ALSO think it’s gross for your employer to ask about your personal habits.

  59. Nacho*

    We don’t do blood tests at our office, but if we take the discount and our insurance ever finds any evidence that we smoked, our insurance is retroactively declined and we’re forced to pay the full price for everything we ever used it for.

  60. lilsheba*

    I do NOT think it’s fair for an employer to charge more for a smoker on health insurance. They need to stop policing people’s personal lives! Whether or not people choose to smoke or drink or whatever on their off time is NOT their business.

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