To encourage a healthier workplace and save on healthcare costs, the city of Dayton, Ohio announced that it will no longer hire those who use tobacco or nicotine in any form.
“Studies indicate that employees that smoke cost approximately an additional $6,000 per year in direct medical costs and lost productivity,” Kenneth Couch, the city’s HR director, told the Dayton Daily News.
The new policy, recently signed by City Manager Shelley Dickstein, applies to employees hired after July 15. The standard requires them to be tobacco and nicotine-free for as long as they are employed by the city. It defines the use of either substance as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, vaping any lighted cigar, cigarette, an e-cigarette or pipe, chewing or any other type of tobacco use.”
New applicants are to be tested for nicotine and tobacco during the pre-employment screening process as well as when the employer receives “reliable” information that an employee is engaging in tobacco or nicotine usage. Random testing of employees is not part of the plan.
For those testing positive, they will be required to go through cessation treatment. If they again test positive after their probationary period concludes, they will be terminated.
The city is also getting rid of its designated smoking areas.
Labor union leaders are concerned that the policy could be a “slippery slope,” leading to unnecessary scrutiny of personal lives and habits that have little or no connection to job performance.
“We are not thrilled about it, but we also understand where the city is coming from because the biggest part of their health care costs are from nicotine-related illnesses,” Rick Oakley, president of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 44, told the Daily News.
Ann Sulfridge, AFSCME Local 101 president, suggested in comments to the paper that the new policy might be just a first step on a slippery slope. For instance, obesity could similarly be identified as a health concern for employers, but that she would oppose body mass indexes being used for hiring decisions.
AFSCME Local 101 represents about 800 blue-collar and clerical city employees. Sulfridge said the policy targets a certain demographic and that it will affect hiring. “It narrows the pool of candidates you can draw from. I would rather see more carrot and less stick,” she said.
Keep taking away peoples rights…this isn’t about health-it’s about controlling your every decision.
— Trish Mays (@chateepatee) August 4, 2019
I’m not a smoker and actually hate cigarette smoke but this is dumb.
— Karen ? (@KarenLWeb) August 4, 2019
Lots of hospitals do not hire smokers. Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. If you did smoke before it went into affect, you were grandfathered in.
— Genelle Dunfee (@dunfeemom3) August 3, 2019
Sounds like this could be challenged in the courts at some point.
— Raymond Eroh Jr (@RFEJR212) August 4, 2019
Oakley said he is also worried about a slippery slope because tobacco and nicotine are legal products that he believes do not affect work performance. He also indicated that about a quarter of the police force smoke and most use chewing tobacco. He is certain that the policy will be a deterrent in police recruiting efforts where competition for good new hires is increasingly competitive.
“We’re waiting to see how it pans out, but if it really starts affecting our new hire numbers, then we may have to have another sit-down discussion about it,” he said.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have made it illegal to make an employment decision based on off-the-job smoking, according to the Daily News. California and Connecticut prohibit discrimination based on any activity that is legal.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of those in Ohio who smoke has dropped to 18 percent today from 26 percent in 1995.
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