Okla. senator wants to repeal smoker discrimination bill

Posted on: 12:05 pm, January 21, 2013, by

 

OKLAHOMA CITY—A newly proposed Senate Bill could dramatically affect the rights of smokers in our state.

It would allow businesses to make decisions about medical coverage and who they will hire and fire based on whether someone smokes or not.

Okla. Sen. David Holt, (R) District 30, said, “I was just kind of incredulous that there was a protection like this because, as I said, these are the kinds of protections you’d think we have for race and gender, not smokers.”

 Sen. Holt recently learned about Title 40, which prohibits Oklahoma businesses from discriminating against smokers.

However, Holt created Senate Bill 327, which would repeal that law and give wider discretion to employers.

Holt said, “Just as a smoker has made a choice, employers ought to be able to make choices too. Because smokers cost them money, particularly when they’re providing them medical benefits.”

 Attorney Doug Friesen said, “We are a really big individual rights state.”

Friesen says the bill could face a lot of resistance.

Many smokers say it just wouldn’t be fair.

Sen. Holt said, “I don’t really think this is about smokers. I think it’s about businesses being able to make decisions that affect their bottom line.”

He says the rights of Oklahoma businesses need to be protected as well.

He said, “Forcing employers to compensate or provide benefits to smokers at the exact same rates as they do their non-smoking employees. It’s just not fair to employers.”

The bill has a long way to go before becoming law.

It has to make its way through a committee before getting to a vote on the Senate floor.