Whirlpool might purge 'nonsmokers'

April 22, 2008

Whirlpool Corp.'s refrigerator plant in Evansville has suspended 39 production workers suspected by the company of continuing to smoke despite claiming on health insurance forms that they were nonsmokers.

Fact-finding meetings with each of the workers will precede final discipline, the company told the Evansville Courier & Press.

Whirlpool learned of the alleged infractions from eyewitnesses who said the employees smoked in designated areas outside the plant.

The investigation might be expanded to additional production workers as well as administrative staff, Whirlpool told the newspaper.

The policy of charging smokers an additional $500 a year in premiums led to arbitration and a lawsuit between the company and its union. The suit was settled for undisclosed terms in March.

An arbitrator had forced the Benton Harbor, Mich., company to reimburse the surcharges.

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