Workplace Ban on Smokers & Nicotine Testing
Service : Occupational Health Screening
Question: Can we have a policy banning the hiring of smokers, and is it legal to test applicants for nicotine?
Response & Analysis:
It depends on where you operate your business. While smokers are not a pro¬tected class at the federal level, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed smoker-protection laws, outlawing the practice of banning the hiring of smokers.
Tobacco-free hiring policies, or other laws prohibiting discrimination based on off-duty conduct, designed to promote health and reduce insurance premiums, have been enacted by a growing number of employers in the remaining 22 states — primarily hospitals. Such employers can test applicants for nicotine use and make hiring decisions based on the results.
Many of the policies banning the hiring of smokers expand on smoke-free work¬place rules. Such employers won’t hire applicants whose urine tests positive for nicotine use, whether cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or even patches.
While employers in states permitting tobacco-free hiring policies can legally refuse to hire smokers, there are practical considerations that should be addressed. It may be difficult to enforce (for instance, once hired, will you monitor employees for signs of smoking?), it may limit the pool of qualified job applicants (particularly in certain professions or age groups) and it may be resented by even nonsmokers, who see such policies as unwarranted intrusions into their off-duty conduct.
Of the states that do not permit tobacco-free hiring policies, nicotine testing is of no practical value. Some such states (including Colorado, Illinois and New York) have enacted broader laws that prevent employers from employment discrimination based on lawful, off-duty conduct.
State Smoker-Protection Laws
As of June 2014, 28 states and the District of Columbia have laws in effect elevating smokers to a protected class.
|22. Rhode Island
|23. South Carolina
|4. District of Columbia
|24. South Dakota
|15. New Hampshire
|15. New Hampshire
|16. New Jersey
|17. New Mexico
|27. West Virginia
|18. New York
|19. North Carolina
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