Bill Would Curb Away-From-Workplace Smoking

S.C. state legislator's proposal would let employers take action against home tobacco users

Kevin Bryant

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina State Senator Kevin Bryant (R) has proposed a bill that is being considered this week in a Senate subcommittee that would allow businesses to take personnel action against workers who use tobacco away from the workplace, reported The Greenville News.

"I am just convinced that it's not the role of government to set personnel policy for the business owner," Bryant told the newspaper. "If you own a business, it's your money, and I think government needs to get out of the way."

Bryant's bill would repeal a section of the state's labor law that protected employees' tobacco use away from the workplace from personnel actions.

Andy Arnold, a Greenville labor law attorney, said in 20 years of practice he has only had one case involving the tobacco-protection clause. But he says it is more symptomatic of a trend favoring businesses.

"I think it is part of a troubling trend of employers wanting to control more of what employees do off the clock," he told the paper. "There's already stories of folks getting terminated for posting certain things to Facebook or Twitter. This is part of that trend. Employers want the ability to control what their employees do even when they are not at work."

Bryant, who chairs the Senate labor law subcommittee that will take up his bill Wednesday, said the legislation is not aimed at smokers nor does he want to start a debate on smoking. He says his bill is about government's reach into business.

"A lot of folks have been confused and they think I'm attacking smokers or trying to get involved in people's personal lives," he said. "Well, I don't think government should get involved in the decision making of a business owner."

Click here to view the full Greenville News report.