The Smoking Gun …

By |  December 6, 2007

We’ve got a potentially landmark privacy-rights court case in our own little green industry. It began when The Scotts Co. fired Scott Rodrigues of Massachusetts after a urinalysis indicated he used nicotine at home.

Scotts says it’s trying to create a healthier workforce because it’s the right thing to do, and it hopes to lower its healthcare costs (because it’s the right thing to do for investors). Jim King, Scotts VP of communications and investor relations, told National Public Radio that the self-insured company decided that it cannot afford to underwrite the risk of smoking any longer.

So they initiated a policy of not hiring any smokers. That’s fine. Many companies are doing that, and it appears the courts will continue to allow companies to set their own employment policies, which is the right thing to do.

This is where it gets interesting. Rodrigues was a new employee, fully aware that Scotts’ had a policy in place not to hire smokers. He applied anyway. Unfortunately for Scotts, they gave Rodrigues a truck and some chemicals before his initial urinalysis came back from the lab. He was hired to spray lawns before his employee-screening results were evaluated. So Scotts will argue that Rodrigues wasn’t really fully hired, even though he was working. Rodrigues will argue that he was hired and then fired, even though he didn’t complete his probationary period. I guess that’s why they need the lawyers.

Rodrigues, a certified pesticide applicator, is suing Scotts for violating his privacy and civil rights (he says he was chewing nicotine gum while trying to quit smoking). He now works for a competing company.

Should employers be allowed to restrict employee behavior during their personal time? Should Scotts’ right to set its own employment practices outweigh the rights of individual employees?

— David Frabotta

This is posted in Columns

2 Comments on "The Smoking Gun …"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Twenty three states expressly forbid this tyranny.The remainder will do whatever they’re allowed to do. If lawmakers sit idly by, they deserve to be thrown out.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a private company, Scott’s has the right to hire non-smokers, but to fire this guy after he was already employed is over the top.