November 24, 2003
Union challenges smoking discrimination
Employers who think they can refuse to employ someone because they smoke need to think again, the country’s largest union says.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said that, despite the view of the Human Rights Commission and some employment lawyers, employers discriminating against smokers could find themselves in trouble.
“For many people, smoking is an addiction, and in many countries addiction is regarded as a disability” Mr Little said.
“Therefore, smoking addiction comes under the discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act.”
Mr Little said that the union would take a dim view of employers who made such discriminatory decisions.
“There is a lot of sanctimony around smoking,” he said.
“Employers should focus on what the skills are for the job, and what an individual has to bring to the job, rather than on whether he or she smokes.”