Non-Smokers Fired by German Company

January 11. 2008 ( - A trio of non-smoking workers has been fired - because they were pressing for a smoke-free work environment.

The manager of the 10-person IT company in Buesum, Germany told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.

“I can’t be bothered with trouble-makers,” the manager of the company was quoted saying by the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper, according to Reuters. “We’re on the phone all the time and it’s just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It’s time for revenge. I’m only going to hire smokers from now on.”

Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke. The European Commission in 2006 determined that anti-discrimination legislation does not cover tobacco users. At the time Vladimir Spidla, the EU commissioner for employment and equal opportunities, said a job advertisement saying “smokers need not apply” did not breach European law. He said his decision was confirmed by Commission lawyers (see European Commission Says Employers can Refuse to Hire Smokers ).

Unlikely Here

It’s a situation that seems unlikely to arise in the U.S. A recent Harris Poll found that while respondents were generally opposed to employers having the right to fire employees for smoking (7%) or being overweight (4%), 29% said employers should be able to require employees to attend smoking cessation programs and 30% said employers should be able to require attendance in weight loss programs (see Support of Higher Health Costs for Smokers and Obese Drops ).

A number of American employers have required not only that workers not smoke at work – but that they refrain from lighting up outside the workplace as well (see Ohio Firm Latest to Join Workplace Smoking Crackdown ). However, at least one worker has sued (see Worker Fired for Being a Smoker Sues Scotts ).