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Localizing nicotine-free hiring and employee wellness policies

April 17, 2020

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The start of a new year is a good time to look at new developments in hiring and employee wellness programs. Photo of a women stretching her arm by Jacob Postuma via Unsplash.

U-Haul International ended 2019 with an announcement that it would stop hiring nicotine users in 21 states starting on February 1, 2020. Current employees will not be impacted by the new nicotine-free hiring policy.

Why only 21 states instead of all 50? The National Law Review points out that nicotine users are not a protected class, so the issue depends on state law. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Nicotine-free hiring policies

A few employers including Cleveland Clinic and Alaska Airlines already have nicotine-free hiring policies. Employment attorneys predict that this practice could become more common in states that allow it, as employers look for ways to trim healthcare costs. If you’re located in a state that allows questions about nicotine use during a job interview, ask employment lawyers or HR professionals what should readers know about this question. If there’s a local company that has instituted this policy, can you run the numbers to see how much it actually saved in healthcare costs?

Employer health and wellness programs

Since nicotine-free hiring policies ostensibly help improve employees’ health, you might look at other employee health and wellness initiatives, too. Often, these programs are sometimes tied to the start of the new year. Some employers are placing more emphasis on mental health. Others like Texas A&M are now providing free fitness classes and events to encourage employee wellness.

Any new developments in your neck of the woods? What employers are offering these kinds of wellness programs and how they measure the success of these programs? Lower turnover, lower healthcare costs, employee participation, something else? A professor with expertise in workplace wellness or employee well-being may be able to provide greater context on this subject.


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