bigmac.jpgYou might want to think twice before you have a Big Mac for lunch, or take a cigarette break.

Companies are beefing up their efforts to make you healthier and they’re taking out the big guns. You’re costing employers too much money for medical coverage and increasingly firms are imposing penalties on workers who don’t get with the healthy program.

But is it legal or a smart business move?

According to a report released this week by healthcare consulting firm Mercer:

“87% of large employers say they will add or strengthen programs or policies to encourage more health-conscious behavior.”

And, employers want you participating in wellness programs.

“For a second year in a row there was a sharp increase in the use of incentives or penalties to encourage higher participation rates: 33% of large employers with health management programs provided incentives or penalties, up from 27% last year and 21% in 2009,” according to Mercer.

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Implementing wellness programs make sense, but employers have to be careful of crossing the discriminatory line.

I’m sure there are companies out there that really care for employees, but let’s face it, the bottom line is driving this desire to make you healthier and that could lead to some overzealous managers.

Too much get-healthy pressure, makes some employee advocates uncomfortable, and there are strict federal guidelines employers have to follow when crafting such health management programs.

“We need to make sure overweight and obese employees, who are already vulnerable to stigma in the workplace, are not stigmatized even further,” stresses Rebecca Puhl, coordinator of weight stigma initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

And labor attorney Hanan Kolko maintains: “employers shouldn’t be our mothers. Workers ought to have the right to be left alone.”

There’s a fine line between helping workers stay healthy and invading a person’s privacy.

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