U-Haul recently announced that it will not be hiring nicotine users (via vaping, cigarettes, or any other form) in every state that it is legal to do so.
This nicotine-free hiring policy is legal in many states, and U-Haul isn’t the only large company taking advantage of it. American Airlines has been practicing a nicotine-free hiring policy since 1985.
Is it Legal to Discriminate?
In 21 states, it is perfectly legal for an employer to ask you if you are a smoker. They can also refuse to hire you based on your answer. Currently, there are 29 states, along with the District of Columbia, that prohibit employers from implementing anti-smoking hiring practices.
In the following states, they cannot discriminate against you for being a smoker unless being a smoker goes against a specific job qualification:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Smokers Need Not Apply
Employers who have adopted the anti-smoking policy have cited reasons ranging from healthcare costs to productivity and absenteeism. Even companies that don’t have such a policy would prefer to have a nonsmoking workforce. Their healthcare costs are affected, and corporate costs are estimated to be thousands of dollars per year, per smoker.
Smokers are not a protected class under Federal Law; therefore, if you do smoke, don’t be surprised if you are passed over for a job. Even if you don’t know the reason you weren’t hired–and it is illegal in the state you are applying to bar smokers from employment–simply walking into an interview smelling like smoke could mean the difference between you getting a job offer or not.
The best thing to do, if you are a smoker or vape user, is to put off your nicotine fix until after the interview. If you must smoke, do so before you shower and dress for success so that the smell doesn’t linger on your clothes or skin. Ask any smokers in your house to refrain until you’re out the door, too.