Back in March, we chatted with employment attorney Christine Walters about Marijuana in the Workplace. This week we’ll be chatting about smoke of a different kind.
Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes or e-cigs, are an alternative to traditional tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes produce a vaporized liquid that’s inhaled and provide a similar sensation to smoking. The liquids used to produce the vapor come in various flavors and may contain nicotine.
Recently, e-cigarettes and regular tobacco smokers are getting more attention as states pass laws and organizations pass policies regarding their presence in the workplace. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF) published a list (July 3, 2014) that includes the states and municipalities with laws currently in effect.
In the Baltimore Sun article “Smoking, No. Vaping, Maybe.,” Christine Walters states that while “some employers don't want to be the first to [formally approve vaping at work]” due to the lack of information, “some managers are considering the possible benefits of allowing vaping, especially those who have workers who often take smoke breaks.”
In the SHRM Online article “Is a ‘Smoker-Free’ Workplace Right for You?” an anti-smoking group in Washington, D.C., Action on Smoking and Health, claims that the average smoker costs companies more than $12,000 a year in health and disability-related costs and takes four 15-minute breaks a day. While vaping may or may not affect an employee’s health, “Smoking is the biggest factor in controllable health care costs,” says John Banzhaf, the executive director of the group and a law professor at the George Washington University. “Employers are becoming increasingly aggressive about eliminating smoking in the workplace and trying to manage its attendant costs, not only by imposing on-the-job bans but also by adopting policies that address employees’ off-the-job behavior.”
In many cases, companies refuse to hire smokers altogether. When doing this, employers must ensure consistency when implementing any nonsmoker hiring or retention policies to avoid claims of disparate treatment in violation of anti-discrimination statutes such as Title VII, or with perceived disabilities and addictions under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What policies do you have in place and how are you handling the issues of e-cigarettes and the hiring of smokers in your organization? Not sure if it’s legal or discriminatory?
Q1. Does your organization have a ban on hiring smokers? If so, why did you implement that policy?
Q2. Do you think allowing e-cigarettes in the workplace will increase productivity? Why or why not?
Q3. Does your organization offer employees incentives to quit smoking as part of workplace wellness initiatives?
Q4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of refusing to hire any employees who smoke?
Q5. Should employers ban the use of other products detrimental to employees’ health during work time (candy, red meat, sodas)?
Q6. Should Congress/state legislatures regulate employers’ policies on products that employees can use at work? Why or why not?
Q7. How do you balance laws prohibiting discrimination based on the use of lawful products with a vaping ban (lifestyles legislation)?
Q8. Does an employer risk becoming too paternalistic by implementing a vaping ban? If so, how do you overcome the perception?