Can We Not Discriminate Against Bad Habits?

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A recent Gallup poll of Americans showed that 56% of smokers believe they are at least occasionally discriminated against in public or employment life with 13% of them claiming that they are discriminated against daily.  Smokers report the most common forms of discrimination come in the forms of bans at places such as beaches and parks.  In addition, smokers face higher insurance rates and smokers claim they are discriminated against in the hiring process.

My posts generally revolve around hiring so I will neglect the challenges smokers face at the beach and in Yellowstone and focus on their hiring dilemmas.  Yes, smokers do face discrimination during the hiring process and may be turned down for employment solely because of their habit.  Reasons for this are smokers have higher health care costs and absenteeism from work.  Co-workers are also likely to grow annoyed with the frequent smoke breaks that smokers take.  For instance my son, a non-smoker, frequently complained about having to leave work late because the individual who was assigned to take over his register first wanted to have a cigarette before coming on duty. 

A few states protect smokers from job discrimination but is this reasonable?  If an employee or job applicant is engaged in a habit that is scientifically proven to be detrimental to themselves, to those around them and increases company expenses, why would that individual not expect some sort of negative reaction?  An employee sneaking off for five minutes every hour to look at pornography on their mobile device would expect a rightful reprimand even if their behavior in no way affected their co-workers or cost the company an increase in expenses.  Why then are smokers miffed?

I used to smoke back when smoking wasn’t so out of vogue.  I sympathize with the cravings smokers have but I also worked and never smoked until I departed work.  Not smoking is possible for long stretches of time.   A smoker cannot expect their fellow co-workers not to grow perturbed by their frequent cigarette breaks especially if the non-smokers must pick up the slack in their co-worker’s absence.

Wikipedia defines addiction as “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.”  If an individual is not truly addicted to smoking then their best course of action is to quit or at the very least, refrain from stepping outside every hour.  However, if they claim to be addicted, then by definition they must expect adverse consequences.  These adverse consequences may manifest as discrimination in the hiring process.  I take issue with using the word “discrimination” though.  Not hiring an employee engaged in a bad habit that causes them to work less and costs the company more in healthcare costs sounds more like plain common sense than prejudice.

Do you agree or disagree?

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