PHOENIX — Like many Arizonans, Frankie Hernandez is on the hunt for a new job. "I've been looking for about a month and I'm gonna get one. Just got to stay positive", he says.
One Valley company with hundreds of openings is already out of the question due to Hernandez's decade long habit, smoking.
Come February the Phoenix-based moving company, U-Haul, won't interview or hire nicotine users. U-Haul told our news partner KTAR that the change starts February 1 and excludes people hired before that date.
"We're hoping to build a workforce that's free from nicotine addiction as a whole", says U-Haul Chief of Staff Jessica Lopez. In Arizona, it is legal not to hire people who use nicotine. Employers also have the right to test for nicotine.
U-Haul's wellness program started four years ago. It's been formally recognized by Arizona for its health and wellness initiatives. On top of the new policy, the company is also building a brand new conference and fitness center on its midtown campus.
U-Haul broke ground in 2019 and plans to open the center in December 2020. Lopez says, "Each year it's been our mission to increase our wellness benefits program to help our workers and family members conquer their health goals. This nicotine-free hiring process is the next step.
Many agree with U-Haul's commitment to the health of their workforce. "It's their business. They can run it how they want. I wouldn't want smokers working for me either," says non-smoker Genny Malachowski.
While others think it's an invasion of privacy. "It [smoking] is an addiction. Some people need it because it is a stimulant to the body. I think that's almost borderline discrimination," says smoker Henry Johnson.
The CDC says in 2017 nearly 15 percent of Arizonans smoked cigarettes and nearly five percent used e-cigarettes. But, for out of work smokers like Hernandez, quitting wouldn't be hard because "not having a job is hard."