Ten years ago, this week, a landmark decision was made in a California court. It has changed the dynamics in a very active workplace battlefield.
It has been ten years since California Judge Lance Ito ruled that people who smoke are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling, which supported the case of a California employee who was fired because they took “smoke breaks” which regularly averaged a total of 2 hours during an typical work day of eight hours.
The Judge ruled that, “Since those who smoke may experience severe physical, mental and emotional problems if required to work eight hours without reasonable time to have a smoke break, especially in non-smoking offices, their ability to perform their duties is severely impaired. It is likely that the lack of productivity caused by workers frequently stopping work to ‘have a smoke’ is less than or equal to the productivity levels of a nicotine addict suffering from withdrawal.”
The ruling infuriated non-smokers, who find it unfair that they are not entitled to the same number of breaks granted to smokers. “This ruling is not fair. Just because I don’t smoke means I have to work a full eight hour day instead of a six hour day. Sure I’ll live longer, but I think it’s time we demand equal breaks. I am outraged. No amount of thurification can cover up how poorly this decision stinks.”
The war between the smokers and the non-smokers over equal breaks has raged for ten long years, with neither side gaining a decisive advantage. During these ongoing battles, employers have been looking for a way to recoup some of the productivity loss as workers try to “out-break” each other.
These increasingly lengthy break times have lead employers to lobby for a ten hour work day to assure that eight full hours of work will get completed. “In a work environment where employees can have 15 minutes on every hour to smoke, and non-smokers are trying to take equal breaks, it’s nearly impossible for the employer to get value out of the wage that is being paid for workers,” noted one frustrated CEO. “Between the rising health care costs, for both smokers and non-smokers, and the absurdity of two non-productive hours in an 8-hour day, it’s no wonder the economic recovery is going slowly.”
I’m very glad it’s Friday.
thurification \ THOOR-if-i-ca-shun\ : The act of burning incense, or of filling a room with the fumes of burning incense. From the Latin thus, thuris which is frankincense. I know I didn’t make it too clear in the story, but, well that’s a fume of a different scent, and it’s also poetic license.