Hard-core libertarians have long argued that an employer should be able to set pretty much any conditions of employment, since people are technically free to reject jobs. Back here in the real world, however, that much laissez-faire would quickly lead to unendurable encroachments in the lives of individuals, extending far beyond the workplace. Since pregnant workers cost money to insure and especially to replace during maternity leave, some employers might require women to provide proof of sterilization before getting hired. If they could find a way to turn it into a carbon tax break while still getting the workers to their desks on time, some employers might insist that their employees — and immediate family members — be non-drivers. Why not look like an environmental hero in a community PR campaign by insisting on controlling your workers’ driving habits?

It’s not as if the precedent isn’t there. Workplace drug testing and nicotine testing is now often routine, and plans to monitor body fat are under development. For American employer Howard Wyers, workplace social engineering to "get rid of" frowned-upon private behaviours is fair game. And for now, no one seems much concerned about how far this could go. As long as it’s been "denormalized" in the media for awhile, any form of private sector intrusion into personal liberty seems to be fair game.



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