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Eye On Olympia

Fri., Feb. 16, 2007, 10:54 a.m.

Doing away with “smokers need not apply”…

More than a dozen House lawmakers want to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against smokers based on their use of tobacco off the premises and during non-working hours.

Two years ago, Washingtonians overwhelmingly banned workplace smoking. Nothing in state law, however, bans an employer from firing or refusing to hire or promote someone solely because he or she smokes.

At least 15 states have so-called "lawful products" laws that "prohibit disadvantaging" a person for lawful use of tobacco away from the workplace, according to House research. In 1992, lawmakers passed a bill much like HB 1154, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Booth Gardner.

This year's bill builds in exemptions for religious or health groups, who would still be able to refuse to hire smokers.

An aggrieved smoker, under the proposal, could sue for damages, attorney's fees and court costs.




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