Michigan firm won't allow smoking, even on employee's own time - Is this legal?

Company Fires All Employees Who Smoke

If they’re at-will employees, why wouldn’t it be legal? It’s not discrimination against a legally protected class, or retaliation for reporting such discrimination…

IANAL, but I think it’s legal, on the grounds that being a smoker isn’t a protected category against which employers are not allowed to discriminate.

Similarly, it is legal (in places that haven’t legislated equal rights for homosexuals, at least) for an employer to fire an employee for being gay, even if the employee is not having gay sex or otherwise pursuing homosexual relationships on his/her employer’s time.

Do I think it’s fair to fire an otherwise satisfactory worker because s/he smokes off the job? Nope. But this is one of the things that happens when you leave health care coverage up to employers.


If it’s financially advantageous, a corporation is more or less obligated to do it, even if it involves fucking over some proles. They’ll be easily replaced with more cost-effective non-smokers.

I saw a piece on CNN about it this morning (sorry, can’t seem to find it on their website) that insinuated that, while the practice was legal in Michigan, it might not be legal in some other states. Anyone know the straight dope on that?

And did anyone else find this section of the story interesting?

Less than 10% of the company’s employees were smokers? That sounds pretty low to start with.

What is the difference between this, and requiring that employees submit to drug testing for other substances?

The difference being that it is still legal to smoke a pack of Marlboro’s, and illegal to smoke pot or crack. I can see the firms point about insurance costs, but it still seems like a good way to lose or be unable to retain or obtain good employees in the future.

By this same logic it seems a company could require employers meet a certain BMI or weight limit so they don’t have to pay for someone’s heart attack.

No argument here on the employees angle. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that pulled something like that. Who knows what they would want to do next?

How long before one of the employees sues on ADA grounds (claiming that the physical dependence on smoking and/or nicotene is a disability)?

Zev Steinhardt

Absolutely. There have already been some stories in the last year or two of cops and firefighter being fired for the same reason, after they violated their departments’ off-hours smoking bans. Smoking employees do cost the employer more in terms of health benefits, but why couldn’t they just make those employees pay more for their health insurance instead of firing them? By instituting the absolute smoking ban, they go beyond merely addressing the financial impact, which is their right, to setting themselves up on a moral soapbox and dictating off-hours behavior.

Basking as we do in the glorious light of Capitalism and the Free Labor Market, if we work for a company, that company can dictate our off-hours life to a considerable degree. After all, we can always find another job, right?

What’s the test for smoking? Is it just nicotine levels in your system? What if you’re on the patch or take nicotine gum or otherwise use tobacco outside of smoking (snuff, dip, chew, snus?)

Count me in as someone else who thinks this is definitely legal.

I’m pretty being obese is qualifies as a disability, so that makes it a different story. And there’s only so far policies like this can go anyway, since companies can’t go around barring all the qualified workers.

“I’m pretty SURE being obese is qualifies as a disability…”

As a smoker, I am biased here. The company only pays you for 8 hours a day of work right? Unless they continue to pay you for the other 16 hours, I think it should be none of their business. If the suits who dreamed this up are fat and out of shape, then they may cost the company money for heart surgery and strokes, right? So then they are picking on one group of people who might get a disease while conveniently ignoring their own faults. It may be legal, what they are doing, but it should be none of their business. What’s next? Firing people with the wrong muscle vs mass ratio? Firing people who have a family history of various problems? Where does it stop? I would say more, but I something to do right now (lighting up another) :stuck_out_tongue:

In a right to work state they can fire you because your breath stinks if they so desire.

As long as they don’t violate the federal laws.

Age, race, sex et al.

Keep in mind that those workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement aren’t susceptible.

They have the same right to fire you that you have to smoke (well, where may be restricted). It’s a free country. They can fire you because “it’s Tuesday”. (I say that because that was a reason they gave me once). There is a very small list of things* they *can’t *fire you for- and thus they can fire you for everything else- and that’s the way it should be. They have a right to hire whoever they want (except for those rare restrictions) and you have the right to seek employment where you will.

Do you have the right to quit a job because the CEO smokes (even if it’s not at work)? Of course. Then he can fire you.

*race, religion, etc.

Or limit or cease alcohol consumption, seeing as there are also significant health issues related to drinking. Or would that be adverse to corporate culture? :dubious:

Apologies for the knee-jerk drive-by, but I can’t help but suggest that this is another example of the authoritarian state acheived by making employers the new government: What is the difference between a country where it is against the law to smoke and one where you will suffer in jobless poverty if you do?

According to the news blurb I just saw, they are using this same logic - the end of the story was that they’re also insituting healthy eating/fitness requirements at the same company.