They’re everywhere, and have been for as long as I can remember: U-Haul trucks, trailers, towing devices, moving boxes, and self-storage units are ubiquitous.
U-Haul International, the creator of the do-it-yourself moving industry, has “a network of 22,000 locations across all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces.” The company’s fleet has grown “to approximately 167,000 trucks, 120,000 trailers and 43,000 towing devices.” It “offers nearly 697,000 rooms and 60.7 million square feet of self-storage space at owned and managed facilities throughout North America.” U-Haul “is the largest installer of permanent trailer hitches in the automotive aftermarket industry, and is the largest retailer of propane in the U.S.”
But after February 1, there is one thing that U-Haul will no longer have: new hires who smoke.
Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, U-Haul employs more than 30,000 people across the United States and Canada — more than 4,000 of whom work in Arizona. Late last year, U-Haul announced its new nicotine-free hiring policy. In twenty-one states where it is legal to do so (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), U-Haul will be “the first major company in its field to decline job applicants who are nicotine users.”
This policy furthers the progression of U-Haul to establish one of the healthiest corporate cultures in the United States and Canada. “We are deeply invested in the well-being of our Team Members,” stated Jessica Lopez, U-Haul Chief of Staff. “This policy is a responsible step in fostering a culture of wellness at U-Haul, with the goal of helping our Team Members on their health journey.”
U-Haul offers employees “an array of benefits and resources to become the best version of themselves through its ‘Healthier You’ program,” which is designed to assist employees in the areas of health, mindset, nutrition, and fitness. The program features include: nicotine-cessation assistance, gym and personal-trainer reimbursements, registered-dietitian plans, health fairs, farmers’ markets, healthy meals and vending, an online health portal, and group-fitness events. Last year, U-Haul added the “You Matter” program to address the mental health of its employees. “If we take care of our Team Members, they will take care of our customers,” added Lopez.
Persons seeking U-Haul jobs in the aforementioned 21 states will see statements regarding the nicotine-free hiring policy on applications, and will be questioned about nicotine use. In the 17 states where nicotine testing is allowed, job applicants “must consent to submit to nicotine screening in the future to be considered.” U-Haul applicants hired before February 1 will not be affected by the new nicotine-free hiring policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has come out against nicotine-free hiring, calling it “discrimination.” Twenty-nine states actually have laws that safeguard “off-duty” activities, including smoking tobacco.
Edgar Ndjatou, executive director of the advocacy nonprofit Workplace Fairness, calls smoker-hiring bans “problematic.” “Someone who uses tobacco could potentially have some form of disability” that “could be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Harald Schmidt, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, says “targeting smokers disproportionately harms poor people” because nearly half of unemployed people smoke, and that many are addicted to nicotine.
U-Haul’s new hiring policy should be the norm.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths.
People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke.
Cigarette smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. Cigarette smoking causes cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voicebox (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.
Clearly, tobacco use is extremely unhealthy, and is the most preventable predictor of lung cancer.
But that has nothing to do with why U-Haul’s new hiring policy should be the norm.
U-Haul’s new hiring policy should be the norm insofar as it is based on freedom and discrimination. Every company should have the freedom to hire whomever it wants to hire and discriminate against any applicant it wants to discriminate against. This ideal no longer exists in the United States, but in a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.
Under U-Haul’s new hiring policy, job applicants who are articulate, educated, experienced, skilled, and qualified can be turned down for employment. But, of course, they can be discriminated against only if they use nicotine. In a free society, job applicants who are articulate, educated, experienced, skilled, and qualified can be turned down for employment. But they can be discriminated against for any reason and on any basis.
In a free society, businesses have the freedom to legally discriminate against potential employees just as potential employees now have the freedom to legally discriminate against businesses.
In a free society, applicants who object to a company’s hiring policies and practices can seek employment elsewhere. But because no one has the right to any particular job, no one has any legal recourse if a company refuses to hire him.
In a free society, these principles extend far beyond employment.
Consider the tobacco policy of UPS:
Shipments containing Tobacco Products (“Tobacco Product Shipments”) are accepted for transportation only from Shippers who are licensed and authorized to ship Tobacco Products pursuant to applicable laws.
To make Tobacco Product Shipments, the Shipper must sign, agree to, and comply with the provisions set forth in an approved UPS agreement for the transportation of Tobacco Products.
UPS reserves the right to refuse to accept, transport, or deliver any Tobacco Product Shipment that UPS, in its sole and unlimited discretion, determines does not comply with UPS requirements for the shipment or any applicable law or regulation, and to discontinue any or all service to any Shipper for, among other reasons, tendering such a Shipment.
In a free society, UPS, or any shipping company, would have the freedom to accept or reject for shipment any product. It would have the right to refuse to accept, transport, or deliver any product that the company, in its sole and unlimited discretion, determined did not comply with its requirements for the shipment, and to discontinue any or all service to any shipper for, among other reasons, tendering such a shipment.
Likewise, in a free society, any company would have the freedom to do business with or not do business with any individual, group, organization, or other company. Because there is no right to service, no entity has any legal recourse if a company refuses to do business with it.
A free society must include the freedom to discriminate — against smokers or anyone else.