In an effort to lower health care costs, some companies are refusing to hire smokers. HR’s big question: Is that legal?
Answer: It depends where you are.
There’s no federal law banning “tobacco discrimination,” but that doesn’t mean the states are OK with it. For example, Connecticut has a law explicitly granting smokers’ rights.
It says: “No employer or agent of any employer shall require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of his employment.”
Also, a few states (California and New York, for example) have laws against making employment decisions based on people’s legal, off-duty activities.
What’s it mean for HR? If your company’s thinking about putting the kibosh on employee tobacco use, make sure you check your state and local laws first — or, some experts say, think about helping employees kick the habit, rather than getting rid of them.