CANADIAN SMOKERS RULED “DISABLED”
An arbitrator in British Columbia has ruled that smokers in that Canadian province are to be considered as having a disability and must be accommodated according to the strict requirements of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code (equivalent to the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S.).
The ruling is the result of a grievance filed by the United Steelworkers of America against a British Columbia mining company, which had instituted a total ban on smoking anywhere on its 450 acre company property; the policy applied to any employees, contractors or even visitors on the property.
The arbitrator found that the company did have the right to adopt a smoking ban policy on its property, but he also found the policy unlawfully discriminated against employees who were “disabled by their addiction to nicotine.”
According to the ruling, the employer had failed to show that it had done everything it could to accommodate those employees who may be discriminated against by their compliance with the total ban.
While the mining company plans to appeal the decision, if it stands the ruling would for the first time add smoking to the list of disabilities that’s been growing rapidly over the past several years in Canada.
Recent human rights tribunal decisions have found alcoholics, drug addicts and diabetics are disabled.
“I simply cannot accept that nicotine addiction, as a pure matter of principle, is not a disability in the same manner as an addiction to alcohol or heroin and cocaine,” the arbitrator wrote in his ruling.
Meanwhile, the company and union are working on identifying “addicted” smokers and how best to accommodate them.