SARASOTA, FL – Citing the burden they place on taxpayers who pay for government workers’ health insurance, Sarasota County officials announced Monday that they no longer will hire smokers, according to the Web site www.hearldtribune.com.
In Florida, the right not to hire employees who smoke was upheld in 1995 by the state Supreme Court after a prospective employee sued North Miami.
Sarasota County officials cited Centers for Disease Control research that put the annual cost of hiring a smoker at $3,400 a year in lost productivity and medical expenses. The policy makes Sarasota County the first county in Southwest Florida to make smoking a hiring issue.
Charlotte and Manatee counties do not, though Manatee has policies designed to discourage employees from smoking.
Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley said the hiring ban came out of a five- or six-year strategy to produce a healthier work force and manage our long-term health care costs.
New hires will be asked to submit to a drug test that detects nicotine and sign a pledge promising they have not smoked in the last 12 months. Existing employees will not be affected, but they are encouraged to take advantage of free programs to help them quit.