If you resolved this year to stop smoking, this may give you pause: The owner of a small German company fired three workers after they requested a smoke-free environment.
The manager of the 10-person telemarketing company in Buesum, named Thomas Jensen, told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper that he fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.
Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke.
"Smokers have always been our best employees. Non-smokers interfere with corporate peace," Jensen said. "Our non-smoking employees were actually convinced that they had the right to smoke-free zones. They just complained all the time about smoking, and I don't like grumblers.
"I can't be bothered with trouble-makers," Jensen was quoted saying. "We're on the phone all the time, and it's just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It's time for revenge. I'm only going to hire smokers from now on."
Not surprisingly, the three fired workers are now suing for unfair dismissal.
They may have a strong case because we believe Jensen's policy is too narrow: In addition to being smokers, he needs to also restrict his hiring to people who overeat and get falling-down drunk at lunch.
Taking heat from commuters
Here's a novel new form of people power: A Swedish company plans to harness the body heat generated by thousands of commuters scrambling to catch their trains at Stockholm's main railway station and use it for heating a nearby office building.
Real estate firm Jernhusen AB believes the system can provide about 15 percent of the heating needed for a 13-story building being built next to the Central Station in the Swedish capital.
"It just came up at a coffee meeting last summer. Somebody suggested: Why not do something with all this heat in the station?" project leader Karl Sundholm said.
About 250,000 people pass through the station every day, warming the air inside with their body heat.
Sundholm said the idea is to have large ventilators in the station suck in the warm air and use it to heat up water, which will then be shipped through pipes to the new office building.
The system will cost about $47,000 to install, he said.
"All that's needed is a few pumps and some pipes," he said, adding the station is already equipped with most of the required ventilator systems.
Yes, ventilation will be key, unless of course workers would prefer a fragrance of Track No. 5.
Now this may be the ultimate way to go green: A British funeral parlor wants to make its chilly chapel more comfortable using heat generated from its crematorium.
The idea will be tried at the Dukinfield Crematorium near Manchester where grieving friends and relatives have complained of the cold during services.
Tameside town-hall chiefs say the heat generated will be enough to power the boiler and light the chapel, reports the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
But they admit it is a "sensitive" issue and have promised to consult clergy and the wider community.
Robin Monk, environment chief of Tameside Council, said: "I'm not sure how people will react, but we don't want to upset anyone. We will carry out full consultation with priests, vicars and the public before a decision is taken."
We think that once you get past the "ick" factor, you've got to admit it is a surefire way to guarantee your family and friends are going to remember you warmly.