Stevens v. Inland Waters, Inc. and Rusch

Plaintiff began working as a security guard with Inland Waters, Inc., which had a policy against smoking by its employees.  Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Rusch told him that he wanted only nonsmoking guards at the company and that he wanted the Plaintiff to quit smoking entirely whether on or off the job.  After the Plaintiff responded that he had a constitutional right to smoke, Rusch terminated the Plaintiff’s employment.  Plaintiff brought a suit under the Michigan Handicappers’ Civil Rights Act (HCRA).  The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the basis that smoking is not a handicap within the meaning of the HCRA and specifically that nicotine “addiction is [not] synonymous with handicap.”  The Court of Appeals of Michigan affirmed.  The Court compared the HCRA’s definition of “handicap” with that in the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and concluded that “even if plaintiff’s addiction to nicotine affected his ‘ability to choose not to smoke’ and limited his ‘body’s ability to be without discomfort when not smoking,’ it did not substantially limit his life’s major activities.”  See “Smoking Not Disability Under Michigan Law,” Workplace Substance Abuse Advisor, March 13, 1997.

220 Mich. App. 212, 559 N.W.2d 61, 6 AD Cases 490 (1996).