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WORKPLACE PRIVACY POLL: PENNSYLVANIANS CONCERNED ABOUT PERSONAL PRIVACY, EMPLOYERS PROBING INTO WORKERS' LIFESTYLE, ACTIVITIES

 WORKPLACE PRIVACY POLL: PENNSYLVANIANS CONCERNED ABOUT PERSONAL
 PRIVACY, EMPLOYERS PROBING INTO WORKERS' LIFESTYLE, ACTIVITIES
 WASHINGTON, June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The vast majority of Pennsylvania residents value their privacy, saying employers have no business asking questions about their lifestyle and activities, or using the information gained from such questions as the basis for hiring or firing their employees, according to a state poll released today.
 The Pennsylvania poll also found that one person in 10 knew of an employer basing a job decision affecting them, or someone they know, on what an employer found out about an employee's private life.
 According to the state poll, conducted at the same time as a nationwide poll by Penn and Schoen Associates for the National Consumers League, Pennsylvania residents clearly believe:
 -- Employers have no right to ask intrusive questions during job
 interviews.
 -- It is inappropriate for employers to hire or fire an employee
 for personal matters unrelated to the job.
 -- Employers have no right to try to change personal habits or
 lifestyles of employees.
 Linda F. Golodner, president of the National Consumers League, said: "This poll shows conclusively that Pennsylvanians believe their private lives are rightfully none of their bosses' business. Employers too often fail to respect their employees' right to privacy, as the poll shows, even though there is nothing improper or illegal about the activities employees pursue on their own time, away from the job."
 General Question
 On all the poll questions, the concerns of Pennsylvanians were consistent with the findings of a national privacy poll.
 When asked whether "prospective employers should be allowed to ask questions about the private lives of job applicants," 68 percent of Pennsylvanians responded that employers should not be allowed, 24 percent said they should, and 8 percent were unsure.
 In comparison, the national poll figures were 67 percent, 27 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
 No Right to Ask
 Large majorities of Pennsylvania respondents said a prospective employer has no right to ask a job applicant these specific questions (the national poll response in parens following the Pennsylvania response):
 -- 86 (85) percent, about a job applicant's religion.
 -- 85 (83) percent, whether the applicant lives with a non-family
 member of the opposite sex.
 -- 81 (80) percent, whether the job applicant plans to have
 children.
 -- 83 (79) percent, whether the job applicant smokes after work
 hours, at home or otherwise away from the workplace.
 -- 73 (74) percent, whether the job applicant has elderly
 parents.
 -- 76 (74) percent, whether the job applicant drinks alcoholic
 beverages after work hours, at home or otherwise away from the
 workplace.
 -- 62 (58) percent, about the job applicant's off-the-job hobbies
 and activities.
 -- 53 (50) percent, about the job applicant's marital status.
 No Justification for Hiring or Firing
 The individuals responding to the poll reviewed examples of activities that employees may pursue on their own time away from work. They were then asked if they thought it was appropriate for the employer to base a decision to hire or fire on these criteria (for comparison, the national poll response is in parens following the Pennsylvania response):
 -- 97 (97) percent said it was inappropriate to base hiring and
 firing decisions on whether a person dated someone of a
 different race.
 -- 97 (96) percent said it was inappropriate to base employment
 decisions on whether a person drives a motorcycle.
 -- 93 (92) percent said it was inappropriate for employers to
 consider whether an employee gambles at a race track.
 -- 81 (75) percent said an employee holding an unusual second job
 was inappropriate as a criterion for employers in making
 employment decisions.
 -- 92 (90) percent said participation in a political
 demonstration should not be decisive in determining whether
 an employee was hired or fired.
 -- 88 (87) percent said being overweight was inappropriate as a
 factor in determining employment.
 -- 92 (90) percent said it was inappropriate to base employment
 decisions on whether an employee drank alcoholic beverages
 after work hours.
 -- 96 (93) percent said it was inappropriate to base employment
 decisions on whether an employee smoked after work hours.
 -- 95 (95) percent said support for abortion was inappropriate as
 a criterion for employment.
 -- 95 (96) percent said opposition to abortion was inappropriate
 as a criterion for employment.
 No Right to Force a Change in Lifestyle
 The vast majority of Pennsylvanians believe that employers have no right to force employees to change their lifestyles. For these examples, respondents, by percentage (national response is in parens), said employers do not have the right to:
 -- 89 (84) percent, refuse to hire an overweight person.
 -- 75 (75) percent, require an employee to lose weight.
 -- 84 (81) percent, monitor personal telephone calls.
 -- 91 (86) percent, forbid dating an employee of a rival firm.
 -- 90 (88) percent, refuse to hire someone who drinks alcoholic
 beverages.
 -- 72 (72) percent, require an employee to stop drinking
 alcoholic beverages.
 -- 68 (67) percent, check the credit standing of a job applicant.
 -- 90 (87) percent, refuse to hire a smoker.
 -- 82 (82) percent, require a smoker to quit.
 -- 77 (73) percent, require an employee to quit a second job.
 Personal Experience -- Right to Ask
 Pennsylvanians interviewed for the poll also commented on questions an employer could ask about legal activities away from work. The percentages of respondents saying that they, or someone they knew, had actually been asked the questions (national response in parens) are:
 -- 44 (47) percent said a potential employer asked them, or
 someone they knew, about their marital status.
 -- 26 (33) percent asked about outside hobbies and activities.
 -- 12 (17) percent asked about the applicant's religion.
 -- 12 (14) percent, whether they planned to have children.
 -- 10 (13) percent, whether they smoked away from the
 workplace.
 -- 11 (13) percent, if they drank alcoholic beverages away from
 the workplace.
 -- 6 (8) percent, whether they have elderly parents.
 -- 4 (6) percent, whether they lived with a non-family member
 of the opposite sex.
 In summary, 53 percent of Pennsylvanians say that either they or someone they know has been asked at least one of these questions by an employer. These questions were asked despite the fact that the majority of Pennsylvania residents indicated that employers should not have the right to ask them these questions.
 Personal Experience -- Hiring and Firing
 Pennsylvania residents interviewed for the poll (national response in parens) were asked whether they, or someone they know, had ever been denied a job or fired, on these grounds:
 -- 4 (5) percent said either they, or someone they know, had been
 denied a job or fired because they were overweight.
 -- 3 (5) percent, for holding an unusual second job.
 -- 7 (5) percent, for drinking alcoholic beverages away from
 work.
 -- 2 (3) percent, for participating in a political demonstration.
 -- 2 (2) percent, for smoking away from the workplace.
 -- 1 (2) percent, for dating a person of a different race.
 -- 1 (1) percent, for gambling at a race track.
 -- 2 (1) percent, for driving a motorcycle.
 -- 1 (1) percent, for supporting abortion.
 -- None, for opposing abortion.
 In summary, one in nine Pennsylvania residents, 11 percent, reports that he or she or someone they know has been denied a job or fired because of the stated behaviors. This occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of state residents think it is inappropriate to deny someone a job or fire a person for these behaviors.
 Personal Experience -- Changing Lifestyle
 Participants in the survey were read a list of actions an employer could take, and were asked if any of the actions were taken against them or someone they know. The percentages of respondents and the actions (national response in parens) are:
 -- 10 (14) percent, reported credit checks on prospective
 employees.
 -- 9 (12) percent, reported monitoring of personal telephone
 conversations.
 -- 7 (8) percent, requiring an employee to quit an unusual second
 job.
 -- 6 (8) percent, refusing to hire a person for being overweight.
 -- 4 (7) percent, requiring an employee or job applicant to lose
 weight.
 -- 4 (5) percent, refusing to hire a smoker.
 -- 5 (5) percent, requiring an employee to stop drinking
 alcoholic beverages.
 -- 3 (4) percent, requiring an employee or job applicant to quit
 smoking.
 -- 3 (4) percent, forbidding an employee or job applicant from
 dating an employee of a rival firm.
 In summary, more than one in five Pennsylvanians, 22 percent, indicated that either they, or someone they know, have experience with at least one of the situations mentioned. This occurred despite nearly three quarters -- 72 percent -- of state residents saying that employers have no right to take such actions.
 The Pennsylvania privacy poll was taken at approximately the same time as a nationwide poll by Penn and Schoen Associates, New York City, for the National Consumers League. The Pennsylvania sample was comprised of interviews with 612 Pennsylvania residents, 21 years of age or older, conducted March 25-29 and April 4-5. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.
 Copies of the national poll and raw data for the Pennsylvania poll are available from the National Consumers League.
 The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is a private, non-profit consumer advocacy organization concerned with workplace and marketplace issues.
 /delval/
 -0- 6/11/92
 /CONTACT: Linda F. Golodner of the National Consumers League, 202-639-8140/ CO: National Consumers League ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


DC -- DC002 -- 9132 06/11/92 09:47 EDT
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 11, 1992
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