Is It Legal to Force Public Employees to Quit Smoking?
Supervisors have asked the county attorney to determine whether they can legally require employees to quit smoking or if they can institute a ban on hiring smokers.
Virginia's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is looking into whether it's legal to regulate employee behaviors that put their health at risk, reports The Washington Examiner.
Supervisors have asked the county attorney, David Bobzien, to determine whether they can legally require employees to quit smoking or if they can institute a ban on hiring smokers. Although Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s proposal to study the issue has full support, not all board members support the idea itself.
“We have smokers who work for Fairfax County who are valuable employees,” County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova told The Examiner. “People have a free will.”
Fairfax joins several other jurisdictions and states that are looking at new ways to lower the cost of employee health care. A bill in nearby Montgomery County, Md., would make it illegal to smoke on county property, according to the paper. In 2012, the average monthly cost of insurance per employee for state governments was $496.25 -- up from $467.25 the year before.
Some cities across the country have taken to opening up employee health clinics as a way to curtail the rising costs of health care. In Lakeland, Fla., the city saved $1.1 million one year after opening a “preventive medicine” wellness clinic in its main offices. Employee participation had grown from 67 percent to 87 percent in the first few years after the clinic opened. Cities in Tennessee, Texas and Colorado have opened similar on-site health clinics for their employees.