A bill proposed in South Carolina would mean no buts about it: If you're a South Carolina smoker, unless you put out the habit–not just that cigarette, you could be out of the running for a job.
The proposed bill would eliminate the smoker's workplace protection law and give employers the choice to not hire a smoker; it would not stop them from hiring a smoker.
“It doesn't mean all employers will stop hiring smokers, it just gives them the choice, but now the state has tied employers' hands,” says Rozalynn Goodwin, the policy director for the South Carolina Hospitals Association which supports the bill.
So is the bill discriminatory: Locals think so, and lawyers say it may be, but that doesn't mean it is or should be illegal.
“Are they being discriminated against? There's no doubt about that,” says workplace attorney Michael Brown. “The question isn't if they're being discriminated against, the question is if there's good reason.”
How do you define good reason? Statistics show tobacco use costs the US 167 million dollars in health care costs and lost productivity each year. In South Carolina, it's around three million. That's a lot of money, but can you put a price on personal choice:
“It is a personal choice, but it impacts citizens' health, healthcare costs, and taxpayer costs,” says Goodwin.
But smoking isn't the only personal choice people make.
“Are they not going to hire you because you're fat, because you're old”
23:21:17 “the well worn phrase is slippery slope”
The only things that are protected for sure are characteristics like race, religion, and national origin. But experts say employers are unlikely to discriminate against those who are overweight for example, because that's less clearcut. Everyone wants a healthier South Carolina, the question is how.