The New York Times loves spotting trends. Here’s the latest: Workplaces are moving from smoke-free to "smoker-free" places, particularly in the health care arena.
I hate to break it to The New York Times, but this is far from new. Indeed, nearly three years ago, I blogged about it, noting "there’s been a lot of talk of late of a "trend" beginning where employers are taking stock of employees health habits, particularly smoking." And two years ago, I noted that some towns were considering larger smoking bans.
And I highlighted a huge issue for employers in Connecticut — one that is conspicuously absent from the Times’ piece: There are "smokers" rights laws that prohibit many employers from taking action against their employees based on their smoking habits.
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.