When I was away last week, one of the headlines from my alma mater caught my attention.  The University of Pennsylvania Health System announced that effective July 1st, they will refuse to hire anyone who smokes or uses tobacco.

Smokers’ Rights Continue

No doubt some of you are either lauding this step, or shaking your head in disgust.

Could an employer in Connecticut consider taking such a step? Surprisingly no.

For of all the steps taken to promote healthy workplaces, Connecticut still prohibits employers from making decisions based on an employee or applicant’s outside smoking activities. 

Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-40s 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.

And don’t look for any changes in the immediate horizon. A quick review of the Labor & Public Employee Committee book shows nary a reference to changing this law and no proposed bills on the subject have been introduced this year.