Employers may want to pay attention to recently introduced H.B. 470. The Bill was introduced by Representative Stephen Dyer (D-43rd District) and co-sponsors Mark Okey (D-61st District), John Domenick (D-95th District), Raymond Pryor (D-85th District), and Robert Hagan (D-60th District) on March 23, 2010. H.B. 470 would create a cause of action against employers that discriminate against individual job applicants or employees because they smoke tobacco. If enacted, H.B. 470 would prohibit employers from refusing to hire individuals or otherwise discriminating against individuals with respect to the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment because they smoke tobacco. The bill does not impact an employer’s ability to establish policies prohibiting smoking “or smelling like tobacco smoke” during work hours.
The bill does not explicitly include any private remedies for the applicant who is not hired or the employee who is fired. Instead, any employer who violates this provision is subject to civil liability and is subject to escalating fines, including (1) $25,000 for the first offense, (2) $50,000 for the second offense, and (3) $100,000 for each subsequent offense.
H.B. 470 is still in the early stage of the legislative process. However, we will continue to keep you updated if the bill gains any traction.