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April 6, 2011

No Smokers Allowed

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:49 pm

There are roughly five applicants for every job opening these days.  So does that give employers the right to be picky, beyond the education and skill requirements for the job?  In many cases, employers are saying “yes.”  Many employers are adopting workplace policies to not only be “smoke-free” but “smoker-free.”  Job applications may indicate these companies follow tobacco-free hiring, subjecting job seekers to urine tests for nicotine.

According to federal estimates as reported in the New York Times, employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care and lost productivity.  Some employers believe it is unfair for employees who maintain healthy lifestyles to subsidize those who don’t.

But is this legal?  These new anti-smoker measures are very controversial.  Critics include the American Civil Liberties Unions and tobacco companies who believe employers are crossing a line by interfering with employees’ private lives.

Does your state have a “smokers” protection law?  Currently 29 states have laws on the books allowing workers to sue an employer if they’re denied a job because they are smokers.  The outcome of this controversial issue will be interesting to follow.



Weekly Wednesday Acronym – DOL

This week’s weekly acronym is one we are most likely very familiar with – DOL – the (dreaded) Department of Labor.  In fact, you may have their website bookmarked on your computer for quick reference. 

As you know, the DOL is the federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing a large quantity of federal labor laws.  Below is a partial list of agencies and labor laws the DOL is responsible for (which you will note contains even more acronyms):

  • Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
    • Continuation rights for benefits (COBRA), privacy rights for benefits (HIPAA)
  • Wage & Hour Division (WHD)
    • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – overtime pay, child labor
    • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  •  Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
    • Workplace health and safety, whistleblower protection
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
  • Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP)
  • Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS)
    • Veterans’ rights to reemployment (USERRA)

It is obvious there isn’t much in our human resources world that doesn’t involve the DOL in some way, shape or form.  The DOL has issued a number of “Fact Sheets” which are very helpful in understanding and interpreting the various labor laws.  I would encourage you to visit their website, as it is a great resource for human resource professionals.  Their homepage is, and for a complete summary of the DOL’s areas of responsibility, please visit