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Trend: employers refuse to hire smokers

As Florida job-seekers read the classifieds or scan job postings online, they might be noticing a new requirement: smokers need not apply.

Across the country, more and more employers are beginning to refuse employment to applicants who smoke. Most of these are health care organizations who claim their goal is to improve employee wellness and keep down health insurance costs, but businesses in other industries have implemented smoking hiring bans, too. Back in 2008, Sarasota County became the first county in Southwest Florida to announce it would no longer hire smokers. The practice, for now, is perfectly legal in Florida although some call it discrimination.

Although 29 states in the U.S. have implemented laws to ban employers from discriminating against smokers in hiring practices, Florida has not done so. Federal workplace discrimination law also does not currently protect smokers.

These laws could change though as more and more places of employment begin to initiate such policies and smokers have fewer places to work. While smoking is certainly less popular than it has been, more than 19 percent of Americans still smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the most recent organizations to announce it will stop hiring smokers is the Detroit Medical Center. The health care center will now test job applicants for nicotine.

Many employment law professionals do not think the laws will shift further in favor of smokers. Because the Surgeon General's report linking smoking to health concerns was first released almost 50 years ago, many feel the priority has shifted to public health over an individual's right to smoke.

However, one could also surmise that anti-smoking prejudice in hiring could be outlawed. Although it is not a healthy practice, there are other unhealthy habits employees engage in--as well as conditions that employees cannot control--and it could be a problem to pick and choose where to draw the line.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Medical Center will not hire smokers, plans to test applicants for smoking," Patricia Anstett and Robin Erb, June 13, 2012

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