Philadelphia Employment Law News

Can Smokers Be Denied Job Offers?

A few hospitals in Pennsylvania began testing employment candidates for nicotine and could deny smokers from getting the job.

Treating nicotine like drugs and alcohol could mean that potential employees could lose their job offers if they test positive for nicotine, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

Although some people may think denying smokers the job is extreme, this isn't the first time that smoking has interfered with employment.

Smokers can Decrease a Company's Bottom Line

While it's no secret that smoking cigarettes can seriously impair your health, employers may not be happy that the company's bottom line can be negatively affected by your habit. Some companies may not like the fact that smokers can jack up the amount the employers pay for insurance.

In fact, it's legal for health insurance providers to charge smokers higher premiums than non-smokers. Insurance companies are allowed to charge premiums up to 50 percent higher for smokers, according to Businessweek. Higher insurance costs for companies make a compelling financial case to deny smokers jobs.

In addition to higher insurance premiums, even employee smoke breaks can cost a business money. Businesses lose about $5,800 per year for every smoker on their payroll. Although employees are allowed rest periods during the workday, smokers usually take five 15-minute smoke breaks in an eight hour workday. These breaks cut down on productivity and affect the company's profits.

'Smoker Protection' Laws

While federal law doesn't protect against smoker discrimination, there are some state laws that prohibit employers from refusing employees based on their tobacco use. Under federal laws, employers may not discriminate in hiring only in protected classes such as race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, and age. However, according to the American Lung Association, there are 29 states (including D.C.) that treat smokers as a protected class.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania isn't among those states that protect smokers from being discriminated against during the hiring process. While it may seem unfair, it's perfectly legal for smokers to be denied jobs for their tobacco use in Philadelphia. If you've been denied a job offer based on something like your race, gender, or sexual orientation, you should contact a discrimination attorney in your area.

When looking for a new job in Pennsylvania, you may want to consider quitting smoking -- if not for your health -- just in case your potential employer has an anti-smoking employment policy.

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