• Lost your password?
  • Or, login with:
  • New User? Sign up here!

Retrieve Password


Get involved in the conversation.

May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Graphic: State Employment Laws Protect Smokers More Often Than They Protect LGBT People

Plenty of states protect workers who smoke cigarettes, while allowing them to be fired for their sexual orientation.

3 Substance

America has tons of freedom! Just not for everyone. While 29 states protect cigarette smokers under anti-discrimination laws, only 18 states offer workplace protection for LGBT people. And only 8 of the 23 states that allow medical marijuana offer protection for medical marijuana patients in the workplace. Since most Americans support MMJ and LGBT rights, this just shows that lawmakers have a lot of catching up to do.



In the 29 states (above), workers can’t be fired or refused employment for smoking cigarettes—even though a study from last year found that employees who smoke cost employers an average of $6,000 a year in lost productivity and health care expenses.



On the other hand, only 18 states protect workers from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and another three states protect workers on the basis of sexual orientation alone. This lack of protection can have major repercussions for LGBT workers, since 9% of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people reported being fired or denied a job based on their sexual orientation and 38% had been harassed on the job over their sexuality or gender, according to a 2011 study.



Out of the 23 states that allow medical marijuana, only eight protect medical marijuana patients in the workplace. This is largely because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Even in Colorado and Washington, where recreational pot is now legal, workers have no protection for using marijuana, even if they only use it outside of work.

There have been a number of well-publicized firings for pot use, including a Wal-Mart employee with cancer who was fired for his off-duty medical marijuana use. The NFL also tests and suspends players for pot use, even if they are using it in accordance with their states’ laws.