Public housing residents in Louisville brace for federal smoking ban

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You’re qualified, motivated and ready to work. But you smoke? Too bad.

Companies could choose not to hire smokers, or fire them, simply because they light up on or off the job, according to a bill put forth for the upcoming Kentucky General Assembly.

The measure, pre-filed by Republican Kentucky State Sen. John Schickel on Thursday, would remove smoking from a list of categories that employers can’t discriminate against. It doesn’t affect other protections for race, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability.

Schickel, who represents Boone County in northern Kentucky, said that as a conservative Republican he is always looking for ways to limit government and believes companies should largely be allowed to hire who they want.

"At this time in the state's history to have smokers as a protected class is just ridiculous," he said.

The pre-filed bill still lets employers charge different rates for smokers and nonsmokers in employer-sponsored health plans.

Greater Louisville Inc. will support removing smokers as a protected class in its 2019 legislative agenda, spokeswoman Alison Brotzge-Elder said. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce also favors the move.

"This law forbids employers from turning away a job applicant just because he/she smokes. The (Kentucky) Chamber believes this is an arbitrary and unjustified intrusion into the rights of employers," the organization wrote.

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