Can you ask a person if they smoke in an interview?

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Can you ask a person if they smoke in an interview?

I work at a childcare center and would like to know if it is legal to screen out potential employees who smoke. We are having an issue with a parent who says that Massachusetts does not have smokers rights and therefore we can ask this question.
I disagreed and told them that we could not discriminate employment based on personal lifestyle choices a person makes so long as they are legal.

Asked on February 6, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

You are incorrect and the parent is right. An employer may inquire about, and deny employment to, anyone for any reason not specifically prohibited by law (such as their race, color, national origin, religion, age 40 or over, disability, or sex) and there is no law protecting the right to smoke. You can inquire about and screen out employees on the basis of smoking--or piercings or tatoos, or that they watch "Game of Thrones" or like to listen to the Sex Pistols or Suicidal Tendencies, that they don't laugh at a joke you made during the interview, prefer cats to dogs, etc. Remember: employment is employment at will: the employer can refuse to hire someone for any reason if that reason is not specifically barred by law.


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