Monday, August 27, 2007

Smoking Bans In the Workplace: Healthy or Harassment?

Many employers across the nation, to say nothing of Ohio, have gone smoke free. The idea of prohibiting smoking IN the workplace seems to be common sense. I do realize that in the old days this was not so (I watch MAD MEN and wonder what those offices smelled like) but today in Ohio smoking in work spaces and bars and restaurants is illegal; a law passed by an overwhelming majority of voters.

Many employers have taken this even farther by banning smoking near the building or on the property. Recently the Detroit Free Press reprinted a USA Today story about this very subject. They even cited an Ohio employer
Employees who smoke are fast becoming an endangered species as companies ban smoking on all corporate grounds, including parking and other outdoor areas where smokers were once allowed to gather.

It's a radical change from just a decade ago, when smoking was tolerated, even if frowned upon. But now being a smoker can even risk your job as more companies pass policies banning the hiring of smokers or firing those who refuse to quit. What some employers are doing:

-As an employer and health care system, the Cleveland Clinic recently announced a no-smoking policy that will begin Sept. 1. That includes outside the buildings.
The not-for-profit academic medical center will begin testing potential employees for nicotine as a part of the standard health and wellness screening during pre-placement physical exams. An applicant who tests positive through the urine test will not be considered for employment until he or she has quit for two weeks. Current employees who smoke will not be fired.

Read the rest

It has been reported that companies like Scotts Miracle-Grow have adapted smoke free policies that prescribe the firing of any employee who does not quit tobacco, period and any smoker will not be hired. Any use at any time, home or at work, is grounds for dismissal. They even go so far as to do routine checks, akin to how athletes are checked for steroids I guess.

Many studies have shown that smokers cost employers thousands every year in lost productivity and additional health costs.

Some others would argue that other health issues are not factored into employment such as obesity, recreational lifestyles (such as skydiving or extreme sports) or risky sexual behavior.

This leads me to this week’s questions:
-Are anti-smoking policies for employees even handed or are they one sided?

-Do they go too far or are they justified?

-What is your employer’s policy?

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