Smokers Need Not Apply: Hiring Bans in the Public Sector

Source: Heather Kerrigan, Governing, Public Workforce newsletter, January 16, 2013

…Virginia is one of about 29 states plus the District of Columbia with laws preventing “lifestyle discrimination” in the workplace, while the other 21 other states have free reign to explore their options when it comes to cutting health-care costs. … Banning certain subsets of people from employment isn’t a new concept … but the growing number of employment bans on smokers has raised questions about whether the practice is discriminatory. The answer is two-fold: Federal law specifies the factors that employers aren’t allowed to use to refuse hiring someone — such as age, race, disability and gender — and smokers aren’t considered a protected class. On the other hand, there are the 29 states plus the District of Columbia that ban lifestyle discrimination, but some of these laws allow hiring bans on smokers for certain jobs like those in the public safety and nonprofit industries. …