Posted by: LenaButler in Untagged on Jun 20, 2013
Smoking has gone from a socially expected activity to barely tolerated social activity over the last several decades. And one place smoking is quickly getting people labeled as social pariahs is the workplace, as companies continue to wake up to the fact that a non-smoking employee is more cost effective than one who smokes.
Several companies are considering instituting nicotine testing in the workplace, mostly so they can save on insurance premiums, as it costs less to insure a non-smoking employee than it does to insure a smoking employee.
But there are some key things to remember when considering workplace nicotine testing.
1. Laws defending smokers’ rights.
The issue of nicotine testing is complicated by the presence in some states of smokers’ rights laws and lifestyle statutes, which prohibit employer interference in off-duty conduct.
Related to this are privacy concerns and their related laws.
2. The question of whether nicotine addiction can be considered a disability.
A few reported cases of nicotine addiction do exist under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but no court has yet to find that nicotine addiction is a disability. However, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) makes it far easier for individuals to seek protection under the ADA by expanding the definition of what constitutes a disability. On top of that, nicotine addiction can result in things like cancer, lung disease and heart disease and these are all classified under the ADA as disabilities.
3. The question of whether a nicotine test can be considered a medical exam.
Under ADA guidelines, the key question is whether a nicotine test is seen to seek information about an individual's health or physical impairment. Employers will argue that when testing for nicotine, they are not concerned with any health issues, but only whether nicotine is present in the employee's system.
Any adverse action taken by the employer based on test results would then be seen to be based solely on the individual's status as a tobacco user and not on any resulting physical impairment or disability. This argument would obviously carry more weight if nicotine addiction is found not to be a disability under the ADAAA.
Every time employees are tested for nicotine, the employer has to purchase the tests, somebody has to administer those tests and get results and do the follow-up work. All of this adds up to additional expense for the employer and must be compared to the potential in savings that an employer may experience in health insurance premiums.
5. Second hand smoke
While nicotine tests can determine whether or not a person has nicotine in their system, the tests cannot tell how the nicotine got into the person’s system. Non-smokers who live with smokers and who inhale large amounts of second hand smoke will fail a nicotine test.
Although they are not particularly popular yet, and may never get popular, e-cigarettes will also cause employees to fail a drug test. They deliver nicotine via water vapor instead of smoke, thus eliminating many of the harmful substances related to regular cigarettes and are often seen as being a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. According to a nicotine test, though, an e-cigarette “smoker” would be classified the same as a regular smoker.
7. Mistrust in the corporate culture
Nicotine testing, put in place instead of having employees self-declare their tobacco usage, can be seen to foster a corporate culture of mistrust because it looks like employers do not trust their employees to be honest when they self-declare. Some employers opt to have employees sign an affidavit stating they do not smoke, believing that by putting it in writing, it gives more weight to the declaration.
Many employers allow employees to self-declare their tobacco use status and will only test an employee for nicotine if the employer has a reason to believe the employee may be using tobacco when they have declared that they aren’t.
While nicotine testing can be a money saving endeavor for employers, it must be considered carefully and both the pros and cons must be weighed accordingly.
Meet Lena Butler. She has a brief knowledge of different types of testing related to health and wellness and is always interested to know more about the same as much as possible. Additionally, she loves to go for camping trips and likes to hang out with friends and family.