Blowing smoke

Let me make it clear, before I begin: I don’t smoke. I never have, never will. I think that people who smoke are self-destructive idiots who dont’ give a rat’s ass about the annoyance they cause others and the burden they inflict on their loved ones with their addiction. I wholeheartedly agree with the old aphorisms that “kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray” and a cigarette is best described as “a fire on one end and a fool on the other.”

That being said, I am appalled by this story in the news today.

In brief: a lawn-care company instituted a strict no-smoking policy. Workers were not allowed to light up while on the clock. But that wasn’t far enough, and soon workers weren’t allowed to smoke at all — not even on their own time, far away from the job site. During a drug screening, one guy tested positive for nicotine and was fired. He’s now suing.

I have no problems with employers enforcing strict codes of conduct on its employees while they’re on the clock — in fact, I expect it. They also have a right to regulate off-work behavior, but only as it affects their work performance. For example, if a guy drinks heavily, that’s his business — until he shows up drunk or too hung over to work.

But until it affects the work, it’s none of the company’s goddamned business what they do in their off-time.

The principle is simple: while you’re on the clock, you are the company’s person. Once you’re off the clock, you’re on your own. So unless the Scott Company wants to back-pay Mr. Rodrigues for the 128 hours of each week he isn’t working for them, they have no right to fire him for smoking on his own time.

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