There’s been a lot of talk of late of a "trend" beginning where employers are taking stock of employees health habits, particularly smoking.  Some employers are even considering a "smoke screen", per this story and this followup as well.   Some other background on employers and smoking policies can be found here, and here.

While employers have the statutory right to control and limit smoking in the workplace, Connecticut employers should be mindful of a state law that restricts an employer’s ability to regulate smoking outside the workplace.

In fact, in Connecticut,  Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-40s is fairly clear about smokers’ "rights" and that employers or agents of the employer cannot make no smoking a condition of employment.  Specifically, the law states:

No employer or agent of any employer shall require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of his employment, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect  to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment for smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of his employment, provided any nonprofit organization or corporation whose primary purpose is to discourage use of tobacco products by the general public shall be exempt from the provisions of this section.

The only notable exception to this broad restriction is that the limits do not apply to firefighters and police officers, for the most part. 

Note that the restrictions also apply to compensation or other "privileges" of employment.  Thus,  employers in Connecticut that want to get on the "wellness" bandwagon and start restricting employees from smoking outside the workplace or provide rewards to employees that do not smoke, ought to think twice and conform any programs with the legal requirements on the state.

As always, getting legal advice to specific issues like regulating smoking outside the workplace is the best policy to avoid liability in the future.

  • Hugh Murray

    Keep in mind as well that “nicotine dependence” is a disorder under the DSM-IV (305.1) and thus, in theory at least, an employer in Connecticut must make “reasonable accommodations” to a persons job to allow them to perform the job even with nicotine dependence. Could be a back-door way to mandatory smoking breaks . . .

  • An excellent observation — one that was also made in a similiar context under the ADA in some of the articles I linked to. Its also another example of how the state’s disability laws (with reference to the DSM-IV) can create some interesting legal issues as well.

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