Is it discriminatory to refuse to hire smokers?

Smoking Ban Discrimination ImageIt makes sense that healthcare facilities would want their employees to be healthy, considering that their job is to dole out advice and care to keep others healthy. But do hospitals and health systems have the right to include smoking bans in their corporate hiring policy? Or can banning cigarettes and other forms of tobacco be considered a form of discrimination? In 2007, a clinic in Ohio began refusing to hire employees that utilized tobacco products. Since then, between 50 and 60 percent of health care clinics have instated similar anti-smoking policies, which may include nicotine testing in addition to any pre-employment drug tests. Insurance group Humana began utilizing tobacco tests during the hiring process back in 2011. However, some are calling these bans discrimination, including a few professors that have written an article in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Their claims are based on research that claims banning tobacco usage may have a greater impact on those who are “lower-skilled.” Dr. Thomas Huddle and Dr. Stefan Kertesz — both affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which has its own anti-smoking policy — contributed to the assessment. Their article states “Smokers are only 18 percent of the adult population in the United States, but they make up 26.1 percent of those with incomes less than $35,000/year and 25.5 percent of those without a high school diploma.” The report continues that among medical school students, it is “likely to be poorer individuals” and minorities who will be barred from receiving jobs on the basis of anti-tobacco restrictions. Meanwhile, UAB’s Health System CEO William Ferniany says that out of every 1,000 applicants at UAB Hospital, less than 2 percent of them fail nicotine tests. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not currently protect against tobacco users. The EEOC only protects against discrimination in cases of age, race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, pregnancy and cases of harassment.]]>

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