There are a number of laws in place that regulate the use of cigarettes. For example, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to purchase cigarettes. Because secondhand smoke is a health hazard, smoking cigarettes is also prohibited in many public places. But, are there any laws in place to protect employees from being fired because of their choice to smoke cigarettes?
According to Okla. Stat. tit. 40 §§ 500-503, employers cannot discriminate against someone because he is a smoker or non-smoker during non-working hours. This means that an employer is not allowed to fire you, demote you, reassign you to another position, or give you a pay cut simply because you smoke or do not smoke. These decisions should be based on performance instead of whether an employee smokes or not.
In addition, this smoking protection law also prohibits employers from telling their employees that they must not smoke if they want to keep their jobs. Employers cannot tell applicants that the only way to get the job is to stay away from tobacco, either.
It’s important to note that this law only refers to “non-working hours,” meaning an employer is not prohibited from having an issue with an employee that requires frequent smoke breaks.
Exceptions to the Smoking Protection Law
Employees are protected from being discriminated against because of their decision to smoke for the most part, but there are a few exceptions to this law. For example, an employer is free to offer incentives to employees that participate in smoking cessation programs as part of the employer’s wellness program. Even though offering incentives to employees that are willing to quit is a way to motivate people to stop smoking, this is perfectly legal.
Union workers are another exception to this law. If you are legally bound by a collective bargaining agreement, make sure you carefully review all of its terms. Some of these agreements will contain clauses that either ban or allow the use of tobacco during non-working hours.
What to Do If You’re A Victim
Individuals that have been treated unfairly because of their decision to smoke or not to smoke should consider taking legal action against their employers. If it can be proven that your employer fired you because of your smoking habit, you may be able to recover compensation.
Our experienced attorneys are committed to protecting your rights in the workplace—including the right to smoke or not to smoke. If you have been discriminated against because of your smoking habits, get in touch with our team right away. Call Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. at 918-582-2500 or toll free at (800) 722-8880. You can also contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.