Research proposal posted by Jessica Thomulka.
Healthcare costs are skyrocketing in the United States. Even prior to the passing of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the burden on American corporations to provide healthcare to their employees was placing stress on businesses. Lifestyle control is the term given to an employer’s influence on an employee’s actions outside of the scope of their duties as an employee. Some of the most common examples of lifestyle control revolve around the preventative measures to lessen the pressure of the paying for employee medical coverage. The two most costly medical conditions are complications arising from smoking and obesity. The National Business Group on Health reports that obese employees cost employers $700 more than their average-weight employees, annually, for their healthcare. Along with healthcare, another aspect of business that employers are concerned about is productivity. In a 2002 study, the Center for Disease Control reports that productivity losses associated with workers who smoke cigarettes are estimated to be $3,400 per smoker. Business owners and executives are concerned with maximizing their profits and ensuring the health of their company, and by keeping their employees healthy, they can reduce their risk of paying high medical expenses for preventable diseases. Some states like New York have passed provisions to prevent employer discrimination against an employee’s “after-hours” conduct, however there is no federal statute.
There are both pros and cons to the idea of employers having control of the lifestyle of their employees. The stakeholders involved include the employer, the employees, the family of the employees, and even the ‘vice’ industries that the employers are safeguarding against such as the tobacco and gambling industries. The employers reap the most positive benefits out of lifestyle control provisions. They lower their cost and increase their productivity. The employees may also benefits from such provisions due to increased health, but they give up some of their freedom in the process. Some companies also impose lifestyle control upon the employee’s family if they are on the same health insurance policy so likewise, they may gain health benefits but sacrifice some of their freedom. Lastly, ‘vice’ industries suffer the most from lifestyle controls because they ultimately lose business due to embargos on acts like smoking and gambling. If enough companies impose lifestyle controls they could potentially bankrupt ‘vice’ industries.
The biggest ethical question regarding lifestyle control is the autonomy of the employee. Should an employee be free from external control or influence by the employer? According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) there are several themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Rights established in the Catholic tradition have an impact on lifestyle control. While privacy is not explicitly protected under the United States Constitution it falls under the penumbra of implied rights in the Bill of Rights due to its importance. The Catholic tradition teaches that human rights and responsibilities are at the heart of a healthy community. Within the workplace there is a basic right of workers to be respected by their employers. That is in decent wages, the right to unionize, and a productive work environment. The USCCB notes that work is more than just providing for yourself and your family because it is a way to participate in God’s work. They also suggest that a worthy measure of an institution is its ability to enhance the life of the human person. In the case of lifestyle control, Catholic Social Teaching aligns with provisions to protect the health of employees. This would support a ban on smoking and other such vices that are known to be detrimental to one’s health. If the motives behind the employer’s lifestyle controls align with what is good for society then they should be permissible under the Catholic Social Teaching.
 Halbert, Terry, and Elaine Ingulli. Law & Ethics In The Business Environment. 7th ed. Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western West, 2003. Print.
 “Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching.” Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm>.