All 3,200 employees at casinos to open this year in Columbus and Toledo will have at least one thing in common, if owner Penn National is sucessful: They won't use tobacco.
Everyone who applies to work at either casino will be screened for nicotine use, and those who test positive won't be hired, according to the company. That doesn't just preclude smokers, but those who chew tobacco, use snuff or even wear a nicotine patch.
Penn National isn't telling its employees they cannot use tobacco while working; state law already bans smoking in public places, and that is to include casinos. What the company has decided is its workers cannot use tobacco while not on the clock.
Is it legal to discriminate against tobacco users? Apparently, yes.
According to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or ancestry.
Note tobacco use isn't mentioned.
Don't people have a right to smoke? Yes ... in increasing fewer places, as the statewide smoking ban indicates.
But what about an employer's rights? An employer should have a right to hire workers who will help it make more money. And holding down health-care costs is one way to improve the bottom line.
So why don't employers just decline to offer health plans? It's important to remember employers are not required to offer health insurance ... yet. According to Affordable Care Act of 2010, that is to change within two years.
We have a feeling casino owners won't be the only ones deciding not to gamble on tobacco users by 2014.