Currently, an Arizona county is contemplating no longer hiring smokers. This has become a nationwide trend among employers. This is not just no smoking while working or on work property, this extends to no smoking anywhere, anytime, even your own home on your own time. Is this constitutional? Is this discrimination? Apparently not. Discrimination is only defined by if someone is not hired or is fired because of sex, religion, disability, race, national origin or age. The Constitution and The Bill of Rights do not limit the authority of the private workplace.
The Arizona county reasoning for not hiring smokers is because of healthcare costs. Smokers’ healthcare tend to cost more per year than non smokers. But is that a valid reason not to hire someone? What will this lead to next? Obese and overweight people, people with diabetes, people with chronic illnesses or people on medication for life not being hired? Where will they draw the line to cut healthcare costs?
How can your place of employment dictate what you do on your free time? How can they assume that you will cost them more in healthcare just because you smoke? What does that have to do with you as a worker? The “employment at-will” doctrine gives the employer the right to fire an employee at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. An example of this “at-will’ doctrine was that a woman from Indiana was fired from her job because she smoked at her home, even though she did not smoke on the job.
Potential employees with be given a urine test (like a drug screen) to test for nicotine to see if the candidate is a smoker. There is a flaw in this test though. It screens for nicotine, but not all people who have nicotine in their system are smokers. Nicotine might be detected because of patches (used to quit smoking) and vapor less e-cigarettes (which help quit smoking). Nicotine is not what causes all the diseases and issues associated with smoking, the smoke itself from cigarettes is what causes them. Yet, if you test positive for whatever reason, you are not hirable, even if you are using a nicotine step-down treatment to quit smoking.
The American Civil Liberties Union terms this as “lifestyle discrimination”. Employers have been lifestyle discriminating for years for many reasons. Some discriminate because of weight, drinking, and even because of extracurricular activities like sky diving! This has been going on for years. The ACLU believes the only way to stop this type of discrimination is through state and federal legislation. This country has long been thought of as a place where everyone has individual rights, and that’s true, unless it has to do with the American worker having rights. It is time to stop discrimination in all forms for all people.