The Employer's Legal Resource: Oklahoma Encourages Wellness and Smoking Cessation Programs
Since the early 90s, Oklahoma has protected employees who smoke. Our state government made it illegal to discharge "or otherwise disadvantage any individual, with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment" because the person smokes, does not smoke, or uses tobacco products during nonworking hours. That law also states that no employer can require, as a condition of employment, that an employee or applicant abstain from smoking or using tobacco products during nonworking hours.
Governor Fallin recently signed a new law, which will go into effect November 1, 2013, which adds to this law. It simply states that nothing about the law "shall prohibit an employer from offering incentives to an employee to participate in a wellness program, including, but not limited to, smoking cessation programs, in conjunction with the employer providing the employee health insurance coverage."
There was nothing about the prior law which prohibited offering such incentives. Perhaps this is Oklahoma's subtle way of encouraging wellness programs and smoking cessation programs in light of the rising health insurance costs. When considering such programs, remember GINA (see previous article).
By Kristen L. Brightmire, firstname.lastname@example.org