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Fat? Michelin Will Cut Your Pay – and Others Might Follow Suit

Fat? Michelin Will Cut Your Pay – and Others Might Follow Suit

If you’re overweight or suffer from a disease like high blood pressure, you don’t want to work at Michelin North America.

If your waistline is larger than the tire manufacturer deems acceptable, or if you suffer from chronic hypertension, you’ll be charged $1,000 more for health care coverage. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to monitor employees’ Body Mass Indices, blood pressure, glucose levels, triglycerides, and waist sizes. If your waist size is larger than 35 inches for women, or 40 inches for men, or if other metrics fall outside of the “acceptable” range, penalties kick in.

Michelin is far from the only company considering adding penalties; indeed, a survey indicated that six in 10 employers may impose penalties on employees who fail to meet arbitrary fitness criteria.

Companies say that programs like Michelin’s are required to force employees to be healthier — in other words, by charging someone extra for having the temerity to  be sick or outside of accepted norms for weight, employers will make everyone healthier. They add that incentive programs simply don’t work as well as penalties to motivate employees’ behavior.

Perhaps, if there was strong evidence that obesity was something that people could easily control, there would be merit to this, but as studies have repeatedly shown, this is simply not the case. Once a person is overweight, both body and mind fight any effort to lose weight. Indeed, over 99 percent of diets fail over a five-year period. This means that if an employee happens to be fat, they are extremely unlikely to lose weight no matter how hard they work, no matter how much willpower they show. Essentially, Michelin is planning to institute a $1,000 per year penalty that cannot be eliminated.

The same is true for people with hypertension. There are many different factors that can cause high blood pressure, and not all of them can be easily controlled. A person can’t work their way to better blood pressure; indeed, charging an employee $1,000 because of their stress-induced hypertension is hardly likely to make the problem go away.

It is certainly understandable that Michelin would want healthier employees, even if rising health care costs weren’t the driving factor behind it. Unfortunately, Michelin appears ready to embrace a policy that will punish its workers without improving health. Instead, it’s likely to stigmatize workers. Obesity’s cause is not gluttony, but genetics. It’s exacerbated by weird causes, like what kind of bacteria are in your gut. Punishing people who retain weight more than others is not going to make anyone healthier. Neither is punishing people for diseases like hypertension, or for the predisposition to diabetes.

What might make employees better would be a commitment to building a healthy environment. Subsidizing health clubs. Serving healthier food in the cafeteria. Making sure employees are actually able to get enough sleep. Adopting a Health At Every Size approach to fitness. These would improve the well-being of employees without buying into ableist, fat-phobic stereotypes.

Of course, it’s doubtful that Michelin is really all that interested in its employees’ health. Instead, it’s looking to find ways to cut its employees’ benefits and wages without getting too much pushback. As long as we assume that being fat or sick is obviously someone’s fault, and obviously a bad thing, we as a society will allow them to get away with it.

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236 comments

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12:58AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

It's called Corporate America...Big business can and will do what ever the heck they please! 2 on 2 off, 3 on 3 off, rotating schedules, if you NEED to see a doctor while your at work they send you to THEIR on site physician! I know....I have family that works for those crooks! I am Trucker and we are Federally Regulated and this is the same kinda crap the Government is trying to do with us. Only thing is.... if they succeed and we don't meet their criteria we lose our CDL which means our lively hood! Come on from the Clinton administration on down we have had nothing but self serving, power hungry, greedy, God wanna be's. If you are one of those who looks down your nose at large or as most of you would say without a care in the world fat people you Really need to take a step back and take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. You may be thin and fair to look at but there is not a person living on the face of this earth today that does not have something that could be changed about themselves to fit into the "ACCEPTED NORM" As you get older you will realize that diversity and differences are what makes life worth living. If every one had a size 34 or 40 waist and had blond hair and blue eyes, thought, acted, ate, behaved, and dressed the same what kind of world do you think this would be? We wouldn't have a President of our own choice whether you like him or not in the US we'd have a Dictator and his name would be Adolf Hitler!

6:56PM PDT on May 11, 2013

Additionally.... the title of the article: Fat?Michelin will cut your pay....." is false. Where are you getting this info. from?

6:44PM PDT on May 11, 2013

This is not 100% accurate. Some of the money they contribute to the HRA will be reduced. It's not a $1,000 penalty. If you don't do your health screening, you will pay extra. However, I support that....it's a good way to encourage people to have a checkup. If 5 "goals" aren't reached, then the monetary amount is reduced....that they give you. Additionally, if there are reasons as to why the items can't be achieved....they are reviewed. This article totally bashes Michelin & I have to disagree.

6:45AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Peter g, i am sorry to say that you are so uninformed, yes if you see fater Americans and i visit Canada a lot so I agree but also nothing is never that simple like the difference between what what foods are allowed to be fed to their people, we are the largest country when it comes to gmo foods, estimates say 80 percent is our food is now gmo and had little nutrition, and yes I did have a gland problem and was told soy was good for me but IT IS NOT, but it's cheap so they stuff all our food with it we are inundated with it and was part of the final loss of my glands, as evidence by the scar on my neck, sorry but things are never that simple, do you work for a food corporation or one of the others poisoning us for the growth of their bank accounts. Do you even read the stuff from this site? You really sound more like a troll

9:00AM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

Thanks.

4:56AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

And this coming from a corporation that sports an incredibly obese man as its logo!

8:04PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

I find it disturbing that so many people & companies keep basing their evaluations of "health" on weight alone (don't get me wrong, it definitely is a significant component). If we could see the nutritional blood work of others, it might be very surprising.

9:29PM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

i agree w/Peter G. when i'm in airports overseas i can tell who's American--then if i get close enough & hear them talk, i can stamp it.

2:57PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

I suffer from chronic pain. This is the cause of my high blood pressure. I suffer from chronic pain because the DEA prevents me from having the right Pain meds. So whose fault is it that I'm sick?

10:25AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

Not proud to somewhat agree. Too many people are sucked into fast food and eating HUGE ammounts of food in a single sitting. If you are working hard and burning calories, yes, you should eat more, but! most people eat and eat and eat simply because it's there.

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