Florida County Bans Smokers from New Jobs - ABC News
Smokers need not apply in one Florida county, which will soon require prospective job applicants to pass a nicotine test before starting work.
The Board of County Commissioners in Flagler County, in northeast Florida, voted last month to require potential county employees to undergo testing for nicotine use and to pledge in a signed affidavit that they will remain tobacco-free throughout their employment.
But the requirements have raised flags for a civil liberties group that said it is unconstitutional for the government to administer blanket tests for nicotine or drugs on any group of people.
The board chairman, Nate McLaughlin, told ABC News that rising health insurance costs and Flagler County?s generally health-conscious outlook prompted the change. The county offers its employees weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs, and has a nutritionist and exercise physiologist available for staff.
Research has shown smokers hurt employers with lower productivity and higher health insurance. A recent study said they cost employers in the private sector an average of more than $5,800 more per year than non-smokers do.
?At the end of the day, for the taxpayers, it?s a smart business decision,? McLaughlin said.
Other public employers have adopted similar policies, including the county?s sheriff?s department, according to Joe Mayer, the county?s human resources director.
?We?re following our own sheriff?s department, who actually beat us to the punch,? Mayer told ABC News.
Testing would begin Oct. 1 for all applicants who receive a conditional job offer, and would be part of the urine drug screening that the county already conducts. If applicants test positive for nicotine, the county will not consider them for employment for one year after the screening. If a new employee violates the policy, he or she could be fired.
But the policy may run afoul of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to Baylor Johnson, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The U.S. Supreme Court has, on a number of occasions, struck down blanket testing of public employees and public school students, citing the Fourth Amendment.
Many Florida counties have drug-testing policies that violate these judgments, and the ACLU of Florida has challenged several of those policies and a similar statewide executive order, Johnson told ABC News.
?The government can?t randomly drug test entire sections of the population, whether that?s state employees or people receiving government benefits, without suspicion of wrongdoing,? Johnson said.
The ACLU of Florida contends Flagler County?s policy of drug testing all prospective employees already violates the Constitution.
?What they?ve essentially done is added another possibly unconstitutional provision to an already unconstitutional policy,? Johnson said.
The county?s lawyers are aware of the Supreme Court ruling but still approved the policy, pointing instead to a 1995 Florida Supreme Court ruling that an applicant to a city government job had no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to tobacco use.
?You have a responsibility to the public,? Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey told ABC News. ?It?d be no different than doing a credit check on people handling money. ? In this case, it?s a tobacco check.?
Debate - Thoughts? Good Idea or violation of the workers rights?
Can they do this? Probably. We're not protected on smoking habits.
Should they? I don't think so. Costs of smokers are high but so are obese employees, employees with heart issues, diabetics, people who take several mental health related medications. Is this what they want? I don't quite get why one habit (a legal one) is put out there like that.
Mom to Elizabeth (5) and Corinne (3)
As if people do not have a hard enough time getting jobs!
From what I read the highest majority of smokers are low income as it is.
DH-Aug 30th 1997 Josiah - 6/3/02 Isaac 7/31/03
Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? | Nolo.comYour Rights as an At-Will Employee
Even if you are an at-will employee, you still cannot be fired for reasons that are illegal under state and federal law. In these situations, the government has decided to make an exception to the general rule of at-will employment.
For example, if your employer is subject to federal and state laws prohibiting job discrimination (as all but the smallest employers are), you cannot be fired because of certain characteristics, such as your race, religion, or gender. (For more information on discrimination, see Nolo's articles on Your Rights Against Discrimination and Harassment.) Similarly, you cannot be fired because you have complained about illegal activity, about discrimination or harassment, or about health and safety violations in the workplace (see Nolo's article Assert Your Safety Rights Without Fear of Retaliation). And you cannot be fired for exercising a variety of legal rights, including the right to take family and medical leave, to take leave to serve in the military, or to take time off work to vote or serve on a jury.
What Is At Will Employment?This does not mean that employers can arbitrarily fire employees without good faith communication, fairness, and non-discriminatory practices. In fact, courts are increasingly finding for employees in litigation. Employers must demonstrate a good faith effort to correct the employee's performance or the other issues that led to employment termination.
This isn't just any employer. I would have no problem if a private employer wanted to do this. But this is a Florida COUNTY. No government employer should be able to discriminate against someone for using a LEGAL substance unless it is something like alcohol that could actually affect their job performance.
Mom to Lee, Jake, Brandon, Rocco
Stepmom to Ryan, Regan, Braden, Baley
Granddaughters Kylie 10/18/2010 & Aleya 4/22/2013
I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosopy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend. --Thomas Jefferson