Some companies say they won't hire smokers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Some companies say they won't hire smokers

An smoker holds a cigarette. (File/FOX Carolina) An smoker holds a cigarette. (File/FOX Carolina)

Smokers may soon have a harder time finding jobs. It will soon become a reality for a Tennessee-based hospital system.

This week, Mountain States Health Alliance announced that come March 1, it won't hire anyone who tests positive for nicotine during the hiring process.

The hospital system said it won't fire employees they already have who smoke. Leaders said not hiring new smokers, is all a part of their initiative for healthy living. Some experts believe it's all about the money.

Forbes Magazine said that if a company doesn't hire smokers, they could save $11,000 a year per employee.

Some folks in Greenville see that point; others don't like what they call "discrimination."

Francesca Schmidt is a smoker and thinks not hiring smokers isn't fair. She said personal choices that don't directly affect work performance shouldn't be considered.

"If we're good workers then we're good workers, and if we're not good workers than we're not," Schmidt said.

But Greenville recruiter and president of Godshall Professional Recruiting and Staffing Julie Godshall Brown said some companies may see smoking as a work performance indicator.

She's seen a trend in companies wanting their employees to be healthy for many reasons, including high insurance costs when they're not and wanting lower absenteeism and higher productivity. Brown said a hiring policy that eliminates smokers from the pool of candidates is bold, but not a shock.

"I think there probably has been some bias for a long time for those who have unhealthy lifestyles, whether or not it's a smoker or other unhealthy habits," Brown said.

She said her recruiters tell candidates for jobs to make sure they clean up and look professional for interviews, as well as trying not to smell like smoke "because as soon as they walk in, that smell, just like cologne might be to some people, it certainly can be offensive."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said not hiring smokers would not be considered discrimination according to the Americans with Disabilities Act because smoking is a choice and not a disability.

The American Lung Association does say that 29 states, including South and North Carolina, have protections for smokers.

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