Discrimination Against Smokers in the Workplace

Are you a smoker? Did you know that there are 29 states in the United States that have specific anti-discrimination laws that protect smokers? There is a negative stigma these days surrounding the use of tobacco products, but in many instances the use of tobacco is not against the law. This means that as a smoker, you cannot be denied employment just because you make the personal choice to smoke! It also means that in these states, you can’t lose your job simply because you’re a smoker either.

There are, however, places where there are no discrimination laws that prevent an employer from refusing to hire you because of your smoking habit. Is there anything that you can do if you live in an area that has no anti-discrimination laws?

Federal Law Allows Employers To Prohibit Workplace Smoking

Employers are allowed to set their own workplace policies and procedures in many circumstances. Even in states where anti-discrimination laws are on the books, an employer is allowed to say that smoking is not allowed inside their building, is restricted to certain areas, or isn’t allowed on their property at all. If you smoke and violate one of these policies and procedures, it’s no longer a case of discrimination. It’s a case of you deciding to smoke in a place or at a time that you’re agreed upon employment contract said you couldn’t and that violation is grounds for a termination in many instances.

National anti-discrimination laws do not grant any protections to smokers, which mean if you do not live in an area with anti-discrimination laws that grant rights to smokers, you can be discriminated against because you use tobacco products. You can even be drug tested for nicotine to determine if you are telling the truth!

The ADA Allows For Smoking Prohibition Too

The American with Disabilities Act grants rights to people who have disabilities so that they can function as normally as possible in modern society. All someone must do is make a reasonable request through their employer for an accommodation under the ADA that bans smoking and if agreed upon, this would affect all employees.

The rules don’t just apply to the workplace either. If your clothes smell of cigarette smoke, that is often enough for an employer to consider you in violation of their anti-smoking policies and procedures. That doesn’t mean that you can’t smoke on your own time, but it does mean that even the slightest smell of cigarettes could end up giving you a pink slip!

What Happens If I Think Discrimination Has Happened?

If you live in a state with anti-discrimination laws that protect smokers and you believe that you weren’t hired or were fired because you do smoke, then you may have a legal case to bring forward to the court system. You’ll want to discuss your unique situation with a local legal professional who is familiar with your community’s laws on the matter. Otherwise you may consider moving to a state that has these laws… or you may consider quitting, because discrimination may not necessarily be ethical, but there is a difference between something unethical and something illegal.

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