Employee Legal Issue
This week we are discussing employee legal issues. A current issue involves whether employers can refuse to hire smokers in order to save on insurance costs. Several companies have issued such restrictions and have been successful on lawsuits by employees who are smokers.
Atlantic Beach, FL (near Jacksonville) recently instituted a ban on hiring smokers. The city has implemented a policy that says it won't hire anyone who uses tobacco products or tests positive for nicotine.
"The policy, which became effective Feb.1, aims to create a healthier workforce which could boost productivity, reduce sick time and control health insurance inflation, said George Foster, the city's human resource manager. The policy does not affect current workers." (Karkaria, March 1, 2006).
Should an organization be allowed to have such restrictions on hiring employees to save money on insurance costs ie. is this legal discrimination? Why or why not? Note: Please remember that some of your classmates may be smokers, so be sensitive and kind in your remarks.
Karkaria, Urvaksh. Atlantic Beach Imposes Employee Smoking Ban. Jacksonville Times-Union, March 1, 2006. Natty,
No, I think Organizations should not have such restrictions when hiring employees. However, the other face of the coin is that by them doing so they get to save a lot of money in Insurance cost which at the end becomes net profit to the Organization. I know companies need to advocate wellness and importance of being healthy. However, this type of decisions can significantly affect workers in the area of being able to find a job to provide for themselves or their families causing a major impact on the overall economy. If people can’t get a job due to the fact that they smoke, they cannot buy things, they can’t spend money. This can slow the economy and can make an impact on Country’s Capital and spending Budget, and the way money moves with in the Country. The average smoker costs his or her employer $2,500 to $4,000 more each year in health care costs, compared with a nonsmoker, said Cathy Taylor, assistant health commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health. Nationally, smoking is responsible for an estimated $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity annually, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (http://www.timesfreepress.com) This can be a Legal discrimination. For example, such discrimination occurs when the effect of the company’s policy or rule appears on its face to be impartial, falls more heavenly on a protected group of workers than other workers. In this case smoker vs. non-smokers which can results in limiting employment opportunities for minorities. This kind of case is called Adverse Impact. In order to make a case for adverse impact It involves the question whether or not a company policy or rule affects protected group adversely to a greater degree than it does other groups; and if so, whether there is a valid reason for employer to have such rule or policy. So, employee needs to show burden of proof and make a prima-facie case of discrimination. Smokers Need Not apply for a Job Memorial carves out plan to emphasize health focus by Emily Bregel
published Monday, January 18th, 2010