Trends in HR: Tobacco Use Policies & Employee Rights


Trends in HR: Tobacco Use Policies & Employee Rights

Smoking bans started becoming the norm in the United States more than 25 years ago when California first banned smoking in all enclosed workplaces on Jan. 1, 1995. Today, except for the occasional bar, casino, or private venue, no one expects to find anyone smoking tobacco indoors­–or even in the vicinity of a building’s sidewalks or main doors.


In fact, smoking bans have been in effect long enough that designated smoking areas have become a film and TV cliché. [Cut to an outdoor shot of workers on a smoke break, huddling near the receiving platform conversing.] But even that now-classic scene may be on its way to the cutting room floor forever as employers launch nicotine-free hiring policies where the law says they can.


Why Does Off-the-Clock Tobacco Use Matter?


Obviously, banning smoking on-the-clock­–or even during the workday–encourages worker productivity and workplace safety. But what’s the benefit of refusing to hire smokers who smoke on their own time, away from their workplaces?


It’s simply about the bottom line. Increasing productivity and cutting costs make that line stronger. Employees who are non-smokers tend to be healthier than those who smoke. Healthier employees not only produce more work, but they also command lower healthcare premiums and, ideally, lower healthcare costs throughout their tenures as employees.


Employee Rights and Tobacco Use Policies

Tobacco users are not a protected class under any federal anti-discrimination laws. So, if an employer’s state and local jurisdictions don’t consider smokers as a protected class either, it’s welcome to adopt a nicotine-free hiring policy.

Some areas do have laws protecting tobacco use as “lawful” and forbidding discrimination based on it. But questions do come in to play in jurisdictions where privacy laws may prevent employers from making inquiries about tobacco use. Of course, it’s perfectly legal to encourage employees toward making healthier choices. Incentivizing employees to break their nicotine habits may lead to similar results with an added bonus­–a stronger employer/employee relationship that’s based on care rather than rules.

Regardless of how your business may wish to curb tobacco use, Ask ClearStar how we can help you recruit and hire the best candidates for your needs with our fast, easy, and comprehensive tools like ScreenMeNow and ClearMD–mobile applications for screening a modern workforce.


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