UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022
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I went for a job interview and was asked if I smoked, and when I asked yes. Was told that they would not hire me because I did. Is either on of these 2 statements illegal ? Have I been discriminate against? I am in the state of Maryland. Also I would not be on their medical insurance.
Asked on March 23, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 6 years ago | Contributor
No, it is most likely not legal to not consider you for employment because you smoke. Smoking is, or at least can be, an addiction; an addiction is generally considered a disability for employment purposes; and employers may not discriminate against people in employment due to disabilities. So refusing to consider you for employment is most likely illegal disability based discrimiantion, and you may have a claim for compensation. Contact the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency to discuss the matter with them.
However, this is not to say that an employer must let you smoke at work: an employer is free to ban smoking at work and to terminate you if you do smoke at work. That is because in that case, it is not discriminating against you because of a condition (nicotine addiction) but due to a behavior (actually smoking at work), and employers have considerable discretion to regulate behavior at work--and especially to ban behavior which is offensive to many (coworkers and customers) and poses health risks (second hand smoke). So you can be a smoker, but they don't have to let you smoke at work.
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