CVS – Fat Employees Fined

For workers at CVS, body fat can be costly. The company will penalize employees $600 a year if they don’t take part in its ‘voluntary’ wellness program.

By Jason Notte

Answering CVS (CVS +1.42%) customers’ questions about marked-down English muffins, sweeping up collapsed displays of Cadbury Creme Eggs and developing mankind’s last known rolls of 35-mm film isn’t demeaning, it’s just work.

Having to disclose your weight and body fat levels just to get that gig is another story.

The Boston Herald disclosed CVS’ new health screening policy Tuesday and revealed that workers who fail to comply would face $50-a-month surcharge. That $600-a-year penalty somewhat undermines CVS’ suggestion that the new policy is “voluntary,” but it’s an increasingly common move by companies looking to save money by avoiding employees with costly health conditions.

Under the new federal health care insurance mandate, companies may also penalize obese workers, smokers and anyone else who doesn’t participate in the company wellness plan and meet specific goals.

CVS Caremark, which has 200,000 employees, told all workers using the company insurance plan to have a doctor measure their weight, height, body fat, blood pressure and glucose and fasting lipid levels by May 1. CVS will pay for the screenings, but workers have to sign a form saying the screening is (kind of) voluntary and that they agree to let the company’s insurer release results to WebMD Health Services Group. That organization, in turn, helps CVS interpret that data and determine who makes the cut.

Again, this is for a job at CVS.

But low-wage employees are already well aware of the increasing number of hoops employers are placing between them and their paychecks. On Tuesday, an unemployed Gawker reader told the site about the sheer number of online personality tests he was required to take just to be considered for a convenience-store clerk position.

Gawker decided to fill out an application for a job at Twice Daily convenience stores. It was subjected not only to questions about long hours, lengthy commutes, driving violations and drug tests, but also a “Hiring Assessment” that asked how much it agreed with the following statements, among others:

At work, I often procrastinate.

Most modern art is not really art.

I always complete a job, no matter what else is happening around me.

Variety is the spice of life.

I worry a lot about my job.

I never run out of energy.

This is what the low-end job market looks like. At least in CVS’ case, a spokesman for the company told The Huffington Post that bosses won’t have access to employee health care information once it’s amassed.

Still, slapping a fine on employees who don’t submit to health screenings puts CVS in some rare company. A 2012 Kaiser Permanente survey found that 18% of employers asked their workers to take part in a health risk assessment. Only a small share of them hit employees with a financial penalty for not completing it.