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SMALL-BUSINESS OWNERS URGE GOVERNOR TO VETO SMOKERS' RIGHTS BILL

 SMALL-BUSINESS OWNERS URGE GOVERNOR TO VETO SMOKERS' RIGHTS BILL
 OLYMPIA, Wash., March 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Calling the measure a step backward in public health policy and a litigation lightening rod, the state's largest small-business organization today urged Gov. Booth Gardner to veto the so-called "smokers' rights" bill.
 ESHB 2274 has been approved by the legislature and now awaits the governor's signature. The bill would prohibit employers from refusing to hire or firing individuals because they consume lawful products outside the work place during non-working hours. The bill, in effect, adds an additional discrimination cause of action for employees to use against employers.
 "Our members overwhelmingly oppose this measure," said Carolyn Logue, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/Washington. Logue added that in the 1992 NFIB/Washington State Ballot, an annual survey of its 19,000 members on key legislative issues, 68 percent opposed this type of legislation.
 "At a time when both business and government are seeking ways to promote healthy lifestyles and create good public health care policy, this bill is a step backward for the state of Washington in this critical area," she said. "It would also pave the way for additional frivolous lawsuits from disgruntled employees looking for a way to get back at their employers."
 Logue added that another side-effect of the bill would be to make it illegal for employers to provide positive incentives to employees who maintain healthy lifestyles. "More than ever, employers are instituting health programs and encouraging the cessation of unhealthy habits in an effort to keep good, productive employees, not to eliminate employees.
 "People have a right to indulge in their habits and they are free to choose to work for an employer who doesn't mind. But they should honor the business owner's right to control employment policies and practices. If the habit carries additional health risks that result in higher medical costs and absenteeism, that means higher costs for the business owner. The business must maintain the flexibility to manage those costs."
 NFIB/Washington is part of the national NFIB organization, which has more than 500,000 members nationwide and offices in all 50 states. It is the largest small-business advocacy group in the country.
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 /CONTACT: Carolyn Logue of the NFIB/Washington, 206-786-8675; or Alan Maltun or Braun Ketchum Public Relations, 213-385-3481, for the NFIB/Washington/ CO: National Federation of Independent Business/Washington ST: Washington IN: SU:


DM-CH -- LA013 -- 0154 03/20/92 14:16 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 20, 1992
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