May an employer lawfully introduce a 'no smokers' hiring policy?

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

Federal employment law does not prohibit nicotine-free hiring policies as it does not recognize smokers as a protected class. There are some organizations, most notably in the healthcare industry, that have refused to hire applicants who smoke.

However, employers need to be aware that a majority of states have laws that specifically prevent employers from discriminating against smokers in the hiring process. These laws generally apply to off-duty legal activities. As a result, employers may still adopt smoke-free workplace policies in these states to reduce their costs, so long as employment itself is not conditioned on being a nonsmoker.