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Discrimination or Good Business or Both?
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An article in today's Los Angeles Times is about employers' actions toward employees--or prospective employees--who smoke.

Federal and state laws bar employers from discriminating against workers or applicants on the basis of race, sexual preference, religion, gender. But there are only a few states that offer similar protection for smokers.

Some companies, like Union Pacific and Weyco, are refusing to hire smokers. Some are doing random drug tests for nicotine or requiring polygraph tests to sniff out clandestine smoking.

And not only is the concern for what these people are doing on company time, but also on weekends and evenings--personal time, outside of work.

Are companies within their rights to try to cut health care costs by refusing to hire smokers or, if currently employed, keep them on the payroll? Can employers refuse to include smokers in their healthcare coverage? What if they were to refuse employment and/or medical coverage to obese employees? Could there a come a day when a prospective employee has to leave a DNA sample to be vetted for future employment?

Is this an abrogation of individual rights? What if employers were to take action against junk food or maybe motorcycle riding? Tobacco is legal; so is the Big Mac and the Harley-Davidson.

The article points out that there are precedents for taking action beyond smoking sactions against employees, referring to the person fired for having an affair off the job and another for refusing to remove a John Kerry bumper sticker from her car.

'Tis a legal can of worms.

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