Friday, December 18, 2009

Amherst (New York) Attempt to Bar Smokers from Employment with Town Thwarted by State Law

In an effort which was purported to be motivated by a desire to reduce the town's health care costs, officials in Amherst, New York decided to pursue the idea of refusing to hire smokers.

However, the effort was quickly thwarted when the town's human resources director informed the Council that the state of New York prohibits employers from considering tobacco use in the privacy of one's home as a condition for employment if it is not a bona fide requirement for that employment.

According to an article in The Buffalo News: "There’s no reason to apologize for looking into a hiring ban on smokers, Council Member and Supervisor elect Barry Weinstein said. “It’s very frustrating to get people to quit smoking; it’s a very addicting habit,” said Weinstein, a longtime physician who said he knows how hard it is for anyone to give up the habit. “It’s much easier to not hire smokers in the first place.”

The Rest of the Story

It's also very frustrating to get people to become healthy by losing weight and engaging in physical exercise. It's much easier to simply refuse to hire overweight people and people who do not exercise regularly. But you don't see the Council proposing to refuse to hire overweight and obese individuals. In my opinion, they are picking on smokers specifically because there is an underlying hatred of smokers and an attempt to control their lifestyle.

Employment discrimination is discrimination and there is no place for it in the workplace. Period.

Fortunately, New York State has a law in place which prohibits this type of discrimination.

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