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Companies who say: Quit smoking

This week Humana of Ohio implemented a new policy that requires new employees who smoke to go through a smoking cessation program. They are not refusing to hire smokers, said a Humana spokesperson as reported in the Business Courier. And they’re not firing them if they are not successful in their effort to quit. Some people are outraged and ¬†“That’s discrimination!” accusations are flying around. Now remember, Humana has said it’s not refusing to hire smokers. But on that subject, according to attorney Claudia G. Allen of Strauss & Troy, Cincinnati, Ohio, “an employer can decide not to hire someone in a class that is not protected by law, such as smokers, for many legitimate reasons, ” and “a number of companies have made that ¬†decision.” To be really clear about this, she explains further: “Employers are free to hire those they perceive as the best people to do the work, but cannot base their decision on criteria that would result in discrimination against a protected class. The protections have been enacted so that stereotypes about these workers’ abilities are no longer a factor in hiring. For this reason, Humana could not, for example, decide it will not hire women to work the midnight shift without running afoul of the law.” There’s more to come on this in an upcoming column.

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